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What’s a Little Free Library™?

It’s simply a small outdoor bookcase for curbside neighborhood book sharing in the spirit of “take a book, return a book.” It’s a great woodworking project because they’re just a box with some embellishment, detail, and decoration in any style you could possibly want.

As you can imagine, the presence of one of these Little Free Libraries in a neighborhood adds a wonderful sense of friendliness and old fashioned hospitality while expressing some creativity.

It’s not just a box, though. It’s a worldwide initiative that promotes literacy and encourages a sense of community. There are over 32,000 libraries in 70 countries and in all 50 states (as of September 2015).

The Little Free Library organization has a humble beginning when, in 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a small bookcase in the shape of a one-room, red-and-white schoolhouse in honor of his mother’s memory.

He put it in his yard and added some books for his neighbors to take and share. It was just a fun, friendly project for him. However the concept was such a hit among his friends and neighbors that he built a few more and gave them away. And it just caught on.

Let’s Add 100 Little Free Libraries to Metro Phoenix

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You can build yours to be as decorative and creative as you want.

Today you’ll find about 30 registered Little Free Libraries in and around Phoenix. We want to add 100 more! So that’s why we’re doing this contest.

  • Build a library & be as creative as you want
  • Enter it in this contest, and we’ll donate it to the Southwest Human Development, a local non-profit that places Little Free Libraries in Phoenix neighborhoods (details at their site)
  • Southwest Human Development will fill it with children’s books and have it installed in a low-income metro Phoenix neighborhood
  • You library will get an official charter number and registration plaque
  • Your library will be found on the global map: littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/

Let Your Creativity Go Wild

Your library should be as unique, fun, whimsical, or decorative as you can possibly make it. Get your family involved, let the kids help, whatever.

You are welcome to include materials other than wood in your project. You don’t even need to buy your materials from Woodworkers Source. We’re just the conduit that connects Southwest Human Development with local Arizona builders like yourself who want to put their woodworking skills to use in a community-building event.

Please register now.  Even if you’re not certain you can complete your project by the deadline, please register anyway. You may drop out later if needed. It’s better to register and drop out of the contest than it is to wait to register after the contest is full.

Donate Your Project, Get $25 Store Credit + Woodworkers Source Donates $25

All entries receive $25 store credit on March 5, 2016 upon project delivery.

After the contest, we encourage you to donate your project to Southwest Human Development, a local non-profit that organizes events and literacy programs for early childhood development. If you choose to donate your Little Free Library, the organization will pay the costs of registering and installing the library in a neighborhood in the metro Phoenix area.

Additionally, Woodworkers Source will contribute $25 for every library that gets donated to help fund the installation and registration.

Public Display of Entries & Public Voting

We’re going to exhibit all the projects for the public to view! Come see for yourself, and send your friends and family.

When: March 7 – 12, 2016

Where: Woodworkers Source
18115 N. Black Canyon Hwy
Phoenix, AZ 85023

Reception & Awards Night

March 12, 2016, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm

We’ll host an awards ceremony with hors d’oeuvres and a casual atmosphere. Prizes will be awarded for the top 3 entries, plus various honorable mention awards.

4 Steps to Submit Your Project

  1. Register for the contest at the top of the page. It’s free.
  2. Check your email immediately. You’ll receive confirmation and an entry form you’ll need to fill out with your project.
  3. Deliver your project on or before March 5, 2016 to any Woodworkers Source location.
  4. Complete an entry form to deliver with your project

Project Design Ideas

There are very few limitations to this project. We’re not imposing a size limit, but the general size of a standard library is in the neighborhood of 24″ wide, 30″ tall, and 15″ deep. That’s not a limitation, just a ballpark.

Builder Tips from Little Free Library™

But it’s important to understand this project will live outside. Exterior paint offers the best long term protection. And think of this more of a weekend craft project than a fine custom furniture piece. So here are some ideas from the Little Free Library Instagram feed –

[instagram-feed]

Vice President of Operations - Woodworkers Source We're a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees. Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.

Discussion, Questions & Answers


  • Suzanne Jordan

    Do we just bring in our little free library box in for the contest,
    or is there an order form that I missed somewhere in another email? Suzanne

  • Art

    Looks like this will be a blast and let me get good use out of some lumber I have sitting here with no plan for. Going to build mine using reclaimed wood from other pieces that I have built over the years

  • GET

    So is this just for the Phoenix area or does this include other cities – like Gilbert???

    • Gilbert counts! Sorry if that’s not clear.

      There are basically two parts to this event:
      1. The contest portion with all the projects on display at our north Phoenix store from March 7-12, plus the awards, etc.

      2. Voluntary donation of your Library to be installed somewhere in the Phoenix metro area, and registered with Free Little Library organization.

      Or if you don’t want to donate it to be installed and registered, you can install it where ever you like. But we would still like it to be a part of the contest display at our Phoenix store for sure!

      Make sense?

  • Thomas Fulfer

    Can someone else from another state summit a project.

    • I don’t have any objection to that. However, I think you’ll find it rather costly to ship one to us. Since the projects are going to benefit the Phoenix area, it may not appeal to folks out of state to participate.

      Still, I’d encourage you to build one for your own neighborhood!

  • Suzanne Jordan

    The link you provided was a huge help!
    Thanks! ~Suzanne

  • Suzanne Jordan

    Do we provide the stand? Any limit on its weight? ~Suzanne

    • You only need to build the library. The post or stand isn’t necessary unless your design is dependent on it. Otherwise, Southwest Human Development will be providing the posts.

      So the base of your library should be as sturdy as it can be, and I’d recommend using 3/4″ plywood for the base. Or something of equal heft to allow it to be well secured to the post.

      As for weight limit, hadn’t considered that. A 25″x25″x15″ bookcase, if made from 3/4″ plywood, could easily weigh in the neighborhood of 25 lbs, but I’m not suggesting that as a min or max. Only pointing out that once the box gets filled with books, your library will be quite heavy. So consider that when planning your joints, fasteners and glue.

      Little Free Library has this PDF of builder tips, too: http://littlefreelibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/BuilderTips.pdf

  • Suzanne Jordan

    Is the contest full for the library already? Suzanne

    • No, it’s wide open. Sorry if it appeared that way. Got it fixed now though. You should be able to register now.