By Jaime Mathews

Why You Should Create A Community Book Sharing Library

Mamahood + Homeschool

The Sweet Life

March 23, 2023

Community book sharing libraries have been popping up all over the country the last few years. When we put a little free library on our street, we had no idea that the impact would be so great. It’s why I think every community should have a book sharing library. 

How We Were First Inspired To Get A Little Free Community Book Sharing Library

I discovered my first community book sharing library in 2013 on a walk with my twins in Mt. Shasta, CA. We were strolling through a small community in Shasta City and I saw a cute little dollhouse-looking structure constructed on the lawn in front of one of the community’s homes. It said, “Take a book, leave a book.” Brilliant was the word that came to my mind. I thought it was such a cute idea to not only share resources but to also build community. When I got home from that trip, I told my husband that one day, I wanted to build a community sharing library of my own. And like many ideas that I have, my husband just smiles and says, “Ok babe,” because he knows all too well that when something gets in my mind, it doesn’t usually get out until it is done. 

But life is busy, as you all know. Several years passed and although creating a community “Book Nook” (as I decided to call it) is posted in my office as part of my goals to achieve during my 40s, it seemed like a distant dream, not a possible reality. With a family of seven, property and farm animals to care for, and a growing business, we were always strapped for free time. But then something unexpected happened: a global pandemic caused a countrywide shut down of life as we knew it. Our kids were suddenly homeschooling. Our business had to shut its doors to the public. And although we were scared of the unknown, we suddenly had a surplus of free time and some extra building material.

Community Book Sharing Library

At that time, I had no idea that an organization called Little Free Library existed, where you could simply shop and buy one of these community book sharing libraries. I’m sure my husband would have appreciated knowing about this resource. I went to one of my favorite sites on the internet, Pinterest, and found a few designs that I liked, screen shot the images, sent it to my husband with the simple statement, “This.” Luckily, my husband is a talented contractor and somehow, he can usually take what I have dreamed up in my mind (or discovered on Pinterest) and build it for me. I wanted it to look like a miniature version of our home. And I wanted it big! 

Several days, one trip to Home Depot in an N95 mask and lots of hand sanitizer, and a few tweaks later, the Book Nook that I had dreamed about seven years prior was ready for paint! That was my job. We chose to paint it the exact same color as our home, complete with white trim and composite roofing. 

Community Book Sharing Library

The Benefits Of Building Or Purchasing A Little Free Library

The benefits of building or buying a little free library are immediate. When we first put our Book Nook out onto the street, we didn’t think anyone would want to touch other people’s books because of Covid, so started using it in other ways. One week, we (sanitized) and put out water for all of the people walking on our street. At that time, our little country street was full of families, couples and dog walkers desperate to get out of their house while staying socially distant. Within a few hours, all of the 18 pack of water were gone.

Next, we put out sidewalk chalk shaped like eggs in honor of Easter. We posted a note on our Book Nook, telling kids on the street that they could take them and encouraged them to write messages of hope in their own neighborhoods. We did have lots of takers, but we also had lots of messages of hope in front of our own home. Kids wrote us “Thank You” notes for the Book Nook, and jotted down fun messages for everyone to see as they walked by. 

One day, one of our neighbors put a huge bag of lemons in the Nook with a note telling everyone to “Enjoy!” That was the day my kids learned how to make freshly squeezed lemonade (which they still make to this day!).

Finally, a few weeks after the Book Nook was fastened to the fence outside our home, a neighbor brought over 20 books. It was at that moment that I knew our neighborhood was more committed to sharing knowledge, building community and creating distant yet profound connections than they were to letting the fear of the pandemic paralyze them.

Some of the other benefits of buying or building a community book sharing library are:

  1. Promotes literacy of all ages
  2. Establishes and encourages new forms of community service 
  3. Empowers parents to be be active in student learning
  4. Encourages a reading lifestyle
  5. Enticing families to be active together to walk to the book sharing library
  6. Engages communities to give and receive more
  7. Helps make other people happy
  8. Provides a fun daily outing for those who live alone
Community Book Sharing Library

How The Little Free Library Changed Our Neighborhood

Since its inception over 18 months ago, our Book Nook is jam-packed with resources. I see books about pregnancy. I see romance novels, sci-fi thrillers and murder mysteries. I have seen books about everything from health to wealth to bitcoin, and found some great kids books for my own children. Neighbors have brought puzzles and crafts for kids and have continued to share their own bounty. 

I can’t tell you how many people have stopped to thank us for building the Book Nook. We have neighbors that come by every day to check for new books. We have people stop their cars, put their hazard lights on and run to the Nook to take (or replenish) books and resources. And we have learned the names, the kids’ names, even the dogs’ names of the people who are our neighbors.

Community and neighborhoods used to be much different than they are now. It’s often that people don’t even know their neighbors. The times of swapping family recipes, of borrowing eggs or a cup of flour are obsolete. But a book sharing library helps build that bridge that neighborhoods desperately need. We are humans who desire–and need–connection. And a little book nook is a great place to start!

Stay tuned for the design, build and launch of our next community project: The Little Nook. This will be the book, game and craft sharing library just for kids. 

If you want to purchase a book sharing library. If you want to build your own, then sign up for my blog, so you can learn what you need and how to build one of any size.


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Jaime Mathews      Author

Jaime is a woman of many hats: follower of Jesus, wife, mama of three, homeschooler, business owner, blogger, writer and aspiring homesteader. Follow her on instagram @jaimeleemathews.

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