Combating Common Little Free Library Issues

fullsizerender-4 About six months ago after seeing Little Free Libraries pop up in Burbank and all over, I decided to install one in my front yard. As I’ve said in the past my neighborhood is great, there are a lot of people who have lived there for a long time and in general look out for each other however as the “newbie” on my particular block it can be hard to break the ice with people so to speak. I felt it was a way to bring the neighborhood together since we have a ton of young kids that have moved one block down I thought it would be a nice way for people to interact. I had a friend make it and it matches my house. (Naturally there is a dog hook!) I also think (and this is more of a soapbox issue for me) that the branch of the Burbank Library closest to my house has awful hours (12-6 Monday-Friday) and is not conducive to children in school and working adults using it. We have other branches however they require a drive and so the fun of just walking to your local library on a whim is gone. Hopefully someday post recession/Burbank budget crisis this will change. Stepping off the soapbox now…

Before I installed the library I read everything I could because I really wanted to set myself and this library up for success. There’s even a group for just “stewards” (people who have a Little Free Library) on Facebook that is a wealth of information. It seems across the board there seems to be a few common problems with Little Free Libraries, some of which I have come across others which I have not. Here is my take on them and how I have solved the problems that I have encountered.

1. Issues with their municipality/zoning/building codes, etc – I thankfully do not have a problem here. I’ve read several stories of HOAs and cities citing owners and requiring their removal. I didn’t exactly apply for a permit but there are many other LFLs in Burbank and this one is on my side of the property, not the parkway. I could see if it was on the parkway it being an issue. Undoubtably if the city started giving grief to LFL owners you would see me at a city council meeting.

2. Vandalism- Again this isn’t a problem here but I see it all of the time in the Facebook group. My neighborhood is pretty quiet at night and thankfully if something weird is going on outside, my dogs tend to let me know. My library is also near an intersection that is well lit and so I don’t see this issue happening. I know others have installed lights and cameras to combat this issue. I’ve considered installing a light not so much for security but more so patrons can see at night.

3. Weather Related – Here in California we don’t have a snow problem but we’ve had a rain problem recently. Thankfully my LFL is sealed really well and has a pitched roof so it didn’t leak during the last rainstorm. I know several stewards who have issues. The best advice I can give on this is use the same rules of thumb you would use when waterproofing a house and silicone and a slight overhang are your BFFs!

4. Religious Texts / Inappropriate Books- I don’t exactly live in the Bible Belt and so I’m sure this isn’t as big of an issue here as it would be elsewhere but I’ve had a couple issues with religious pamphlets. The occasional Bible does get left in the library. Usually I leave it in for a week to see if someone takes it, if not I donate it or recycle it depending on the condition as I would with any book that isn’t “moving.” It’s not really an issue with me. Pamplets or religious books that are more advertisement for the religion I recycle ASAP. In October I was on vacation for a week and I came back to a ton of religious books and pamphlets in the library. It was like different groups were trying to one up each other. I recycled those because I felt that this was not the place for them and it was really taking away from the point of the library.

As far as “inappropriate books” I’ve never really had any. Some stewards are very picky about this stuff, I’m really not. It’s not my place to judge what people want to read. If something is outright porn with nude pictures, etc I would take it out however I haven’t had that happen yet. (Please don’t start) But as an example, I left one of the 50 Shades books in and it was gone within a day. As I said before though if a book isn’t moving I usually take it out for a while or if it’s in bad shape recycle it.

5. Book Hoarders/Resellers – This is probably my biggest problem and it really isn’t a large issue for me but is annoying. The entire concept of a Little Free Library is take a book, leave a book. I don’t hold people to this. I get sometimes that you are out and don’t have a book to give, that’s totally fine. The issue I have is with the book resellers. They come with little scanners to see how much books are worth and then take a bunch and drive away. They never contribute books, only take them. To me this really defeats the purpose of the library. It’s supposed to be a community thing, not a resale thing. I took the advice of some other stewards and started marking the inside of the books LFL or something like that. It’s harder to for people to sell them this way. This was getting slightly annoying and so I finally broke down and ordered a stamp. I hate to have to police it but people bring books for others to enjoy and not to be resold so someone else can profit. There are many places to get stamps made and I had a pretty decent coupon from Vista Print and so I ordered from there. Here’s what mine looks like. With a coupon code it came to about $15 and it has 10,000 “uses.” I have a somewhat lower volume LFL so hopefully this should last me quite a while.


Are there any other stewards here who have any additional tips or issues? Or do you use a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? What do you like about it? What would you like to see improved?Leave me a comment!

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