Little Free Libraries

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  • Title: Little Free Libraries: Playful Anarchy and the New “Public” Library
  • Author(s): Cayo Gamber
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Information, Medium & Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Book
  • Keywords: Little Free Libraries, Stewards, Community, Book Exchange
  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 1447-9516 (Print)
  • ISSN: 1447-9567 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Gamber, Cayo . 2018. "Little Free Libraries: Playful Anarchy and the New “Public” Library." The International Journal of the Book 15 (4): 11-31. doi:10.18848/1447-9516/CGP/v15i04/11-31.
  • Extent: 21 pages


A Little Free Library is a “take a book, bring a book” free book exchange. The libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box, mounted in front of a house, that the individual fills with books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. I examine how little free libraries change our relationship to books that circulate on loan. Public and private lending libraries have clearly articulated conventions that establish a contract between library and borrower. Little Free Libraries, on the other hand, forego a contractual relationship. I interrogate, for example, what it means for a book to be deemed “free” from cataloguing, from membership requirements, from records of circulation, from return. There is a playful anarchy in the world of these libraries. Through interviews with stewards in Takoma Park, Maryland, I analyze both what these sites of exchange mean on a personal level and what they mean on a community level. In this community study, I explore what custodianship means to various stewards—from learning why they choose to stock particular books to interactions they have with those who take books from their libraries.