1) Design or build a little cabinet-size structure that can hold books
2) Slap it up in your yard
3) Register it at littlefreelibrary.org to get a neat sign and be shown on the worldwide map.
And a high percentage of the time, the person I'm talking to cringes and says "Register? I heard that costs money! What's the point, remember I'm a person who hates buying stuff? I've made the library, I can make a sign that tells people it's for books, why are you involving THE MAN here?"
Oh trust me friends, you will not find a cheaper engineer than me (ask my husband!) And I understand that building a place for free book exchange does call in to question the need to send someone money.
But I still registered my little free libraries. Immediately, enthusiastically, and I want to list out my reasons here for posterity's sake so that I can point to this post and avoid typing the same things over and over.
Why I Registered My Little Free Library1) It's not that much money
Really this was the first reason. When I told my friends I was building my first little free library they loved the idea, they were willing to lend me tools, scrap lumber, garage space, labor. I could have spent money on that but I didn't. So with the money I saved, why not pay for registration? At the time I'm writing this post registration is less than $40, gets you an official wood sign and on the map... $40 is really easy to raise if you're strapped for cash! Have an open house and take donations, ask your friends. People are willing to give if you've got a simple purpose and a dream. Skip a night out at a restaurant, that'll do it right there. You're supporting a non-profit organization, yes it's a 501(c)(3), just do it.
2) It's their idea!
I did not randomly dream up the idea of offering books on my front lawn for free. I got it off the internet. And I believe that when someone has a great idea they deserve some credit, not just for legal reasons but because I'm a nice gal.
And after using their big idea, I used lots of little ideas they provided too. The official site also has tons of resources - design plans, tips, a steward's network, news. The Facebook stewards group alone is worth the price of registration it is such a nice community. If you're not using their ideas well maybe you should be! Why reinvent the wheel? Let's all do this together and help each other out.
I feel like that official sign I've got is like an advertisement for Little Free Libraries everywhere. If people happen upon my library and think it's a cool idea there's a website where they can learn more. They're invited there to make their own - don't have to knock on my door and ask if you can take my idea, nope, just go for it!
3) We're all rotating books
Last month I posted up about our Little Free Library Road Trip where we crossed two states leaving books in all these different communities. Well those were all mapped, registered libraries. If your library is totally independent, then only the people in your own neighborhood who happen to see it will be able to contribute. Your books won't get swapped as often. If there are no sci-fi fans in your neighborhood, no one will get to try being one because your library will never get sci-fi books. If you have a surplus of books no one will ever swing by and move some to another library, if you have empty space no one will stock it up. Registered libraries get more traffic, more diverse visitors, and a more frequently rotated stock of books.
4) They know me
Little Free Library maintains a database of contact information for every steward. If you see a library that's damaged or missing, contact them and they will follow up with the steward to make sure they know about it. This is especially important for LFLs in parks or shared spaces instead of a personal residence. The steward might not be checking regularly, so the national LFL organization is your way to wave at them, just tell LFL the charter number on the sign and they'll pass your message on. If you see a damaged library with no charter, you just have to hope someone's paying attention, because I have never seen anyone leave any other form of contact information on one. That registration sign tells me that somebody cares and has taken responsibility for that library for the long haul.
So those are my quick reasons why I tell people yes, you should send in a little money to get an official sign and be on the official map. I love cheapness but don't be cheap, be good. And be part of something.