Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

The Story of the “Little Free Library” Movement

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This is a guest post by Lisa Colón DeLay. She is a writer, artist, avid reader, storyteller, and spiritual director to creators and communicators. She holds a Master of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Spiritual Formation. She offers guidance, inspiration, and various resources at her website You can also follow her on Twitter.

Sometimes the best stories involve simple surprises.


In 2009 Todd Bol created an oversized mailbox that looked like a one room schoolhouse. Inside he placed books–free for the taking–and mounted it onto his lawn in memory of his mother–a book-lover and school teacher.

People noticed. This was the beginning of an amazing story.

After Todd shared his idea with friend Rick Brooks, connections formed and the news spread. The story grew legs. Since then ordinary people in over 40 states and 20 countries created several thousand Little Free Libraries.

Like a virus, Todd’s simple concept of “Take a Book, Return a Book” enchanted artists, bibliophiles, star athletes, celebrities, and civic groups to fashion unique and charming little book dispensaries for interested readers.

Through the care and love given by the owner each installation is a treasure.

Photo by 3 Things for Calgary (Creative Commons)

Individuals or groups construct their own box by using their own know-how, plans posted online, or they buy one from the Little Free Library website. There they can also register their location. Visitors can find each Little Free Library with the GPS coordinates listed.

The Story Grows

Todd dreams that one day a person can travel just about anywhere and benefit from the small-scale book exchange and the common goodness of sharing.

As a non profit, Little Free Library has a threefold mission:

  • To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
  • To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations.
  • To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world–more than Andrew Carnegie.

They are on track to achieve the last goal in July 2012.

Todd Bol doesn’t take credit for starting goodness through generosity, and creating a bona fide movement where individuals share what they enjoy with others.

He claims that this amazing story, this goodwill phenomenon is just a “natural extension of [the human] soul”.

People instinctively sense the presence of a little piece of something wonderful. The goodwill brings joy in a simple but powerful way. It transforms. Todd’s says, “I’m only a spokesperson for this. The voice has always been there.”

The Story Inside

A story lies inside each one of us waiting to come out. Sometimes it only takes a little inspiration to pop it to the surface. An artistic creation or a loving gesture may be the best sort of catalyst.

When our stories combine with generosity and goodwill out springs something brilliant, maybe even something transcendent.

And it’s contagious. It’s the best way we can tell better stories.

When we include these lasting elements we create not only a powerful story but a lasting legacy that inspires hope too.

Have you ever used a Little Free Library? Have you ever experienced generosity and goodwill in such a transforming way?

Share in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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13 Replies

  1. Mike Zserdin

    I love Todd’s comment, “I’m just the spokesperson…” True but, Todd is also a catalyst. His act and peoples’ response reinforces the fact that our simplest acts can make a big difference in a world that is looking for hope and inspiration.

    Also, I love books.

    Great work Todd. Great story Jeremy.


  2. I agree with you, Mike.
    Todd’s modesty is as inspiring as the Story itself…but it bears mentioning that if Todd had the great idea and just sat around his house only thinking about it nothing would have started to put things in motion. Our ideas come with a great deal of responsibility to see them through even if they seem silly at first. (Putting a book mailbox on the lawn was a strange thing to do…but the message of generosity was properly received by taking that first brave step.)

  3. It makes you wonder how many fun and amazing ideas die because nobody has the courage to try it.

  4. Is there a kindle version? 🙂

  5. Mike Zserdin

     Great story Lisa.

    I agree. Todd is the catalyst for sure.

    His simple acts and steps forward made it happen.

    Love it.


  6. Mike Zserdin

     Lot’s for sure. I think ideas and dreams die because of a lack of courage. In addition, they die because people rarely have the courage to encourage.

    That’s what I see you doing Jeremy and Lisa, encouraging us to live a better story because that’s what we’re destined to do.

    Believing and practicing that takes both courage and encouragement…so, thanks again for encouraging us to move forward.


  7. TheyCallMeKeeks

    I love this idea! And I love the humbleness of this guy!

  8.  I’ve heard about these before but I’ve never used one. I think it’s a lovely, generous idea. Words are transformational and I think spreading them freely honors what they are. I’ll have to look for one in my area!

  9. What a wonderful  idea for recicling and also connecting the world through reading and books!  A while back, cleaning up and opening up space in my  house, I decided to give more than half of my books  away…to the public library, to our American and Greek schools, Community Church, to friends and children of our friends, and to a used-books store that sells books fo a dollar or two.  It was a great filling, both sharing as well as cleaning up space!
    Our church has always books on tables for anyone to take, and many of us take books or magazines there, but I will talk to them about this idea and hopefully they will organize it this way. Thank you for always sharing great stories!

  10. TheyCallMeKeeks

     Yes it is!

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