Have you ever seen these little boxes when you’re out on a stroll around the neighborhood? Noticed that they were full of fabulous books, magazines, and information? These birdhouse-shaped depositories are part of Little Free Libraries, a grassroots initiative to promote the free exchange of books between neighbors.
The Little Free Library is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded by Todd Bol and his partner Rick Brooks in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2012. Bol built the first bookcase out of scrap wood from his garage and designed it to look like a tiny schoolhouse to pay tribute to his late mother, a school teacher and avid book lover. The idea behind the Little Free Library is quite simple. Community members deposit their pre-loved literature into the box, and new patrons borrow the books for as long as they need. Bol and Brooks originally planned to install 2,510 libraries in his local midwestern-area, but the idea quickly spread, and now there are over 90,000 of these mini-libraries located in countries throughout the world — including a few in and around our neighborhoods.
Little Free Libraries can also be a perfect way to share and preserve the literary history of local communities. Along those lines, our neighborhoods are home to several incredibly influential authors. Thomas Paine, who lived in Greenwich Village during the final years of his life, authored works that helped spark the American Revolution and other radical shifts in thought about human rights and liberties in the late 18th century. Civil-Rights era playwright Lorriane Hansberry crafted her groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun while residing at 337 Bleecker Street, and W.H. Auden could be found writing volumes of poetry at 77 St. Mark’s Place in the 1950s’ East Village. Our neighborhoods were also incubators for global literary movements, launching Beat poetry and the New York School of writers in the 1950s and ‘60s, along with a huge range of literary movements over the last two centuries.
Little Free Libraries are built by and for neighbors, helping them to distribute books and information that matter to them and their legacy. The writers and movements mentioned above are just a few examples of stories that may be interspersed throughout the Little Free Libraries that you can find around our neighborhoods, in locations including:
- La Plaza Cultural Garden Book Depository (Located at the corner of East 9th Street and Loisaida Avenue)
- Tompkins Square Park Little Free Library (Located inside the park)
- Green Oasis Community Garden Little Free Library (located inside the garden at 310 East 8th Street)
- Stuyvesant Park Little Free Library (Located inside the park near 2nd Avenue between East 15th and East 17th Streets)
- Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village (Located on the Stuyvesant Oval outside of the Public Safety Office)
- St. Luke’s School Little Free Library (Located inside the garden near 487 Hudson Street)
- Hudson Square Little Free Library (Located in Freeman Plaza West)
- Corlears Hook Park Little Free Library (Located in the park near 479 Cherry Street)
- Seward Park Conservancy Little Free Library (Located in the park near the intersection of Canal and Essex Streets)
Know of any more Little Free Libraries that we forgot to mention? Please leave the name and location in the comments, and we’d be happy to update this list!
- Interested in learning more about our neighborhood’s literary history? Check out our Then & Now Photo Tour of Greenwich Village’s Homes and Haunts of Great Writers.
- Read our blog on the 31 Literary Icons of the Greenwich Village
- And check out the homepage for LittleFreeLibrary.org