A joint project between The Architectural League of New York and PEN World Voices Festival in collaboration with Little Free Library, LTD., Little Free Library/NYC was a design/build competition in which ten designers were chosen to install a Little Free Library in collaboration with a host community organization in the Lower East Side. Little Free Libraries are small publicly accessible book shelters that function on an honor system of “take a book, return a book.” Titled “Word Play”, artist and architectural designer Chat Travieso’s library plays with the idea of stacking and perspective. The piece, done in collaboration with the community organization the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, uses layered plywood to allude to the vertical patterns produced by books on a bookshelf, creating multiple visual effects based on the angle one views the library. Located in a diverse community made up of English, Spanish, and Chinese speakers, this visual effect allows the library to convey the message “LIBRARY” (printed on the surface of the piece) in these three languages all at once. By doing so, “Word Play” seeks to capture the multi-cultural character of the neighborhood. In addition, the library provides two linear feet of bookshelf space and includes seating that faces the East River so that it becomes a place where people can stay to read, share with their neighbors, and enjoy the view.
How to Describe Little Free Library The correct legal name is three words– Little Free Library. To distinguish between Little Free Libraries and public libraries in generic sense, most writers capitalize the proper name. It is permissible to use the term Little Libraries or just Libraries when referring to these “Take a book, Return a book” Libraries.
The Organization: Little Free Library is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose mission is to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.
Little Free Libraries themselves are hand-crafted structures that contain constantly changing collections of books donated and shared by people of all ages and backgrounds. Most Little Free Libraries are placed in front yards, parks, gardens and easily accessible locations. The Libraries are built to withstand weather of all kinds and hold 20-100 books. Some Libraries are located in coffee shops, in or near restaurants and community centers.
Originally designed to look like a one-room school or a “house of books,” the Libraries rapidly took on a wide variety of sizes, shapes, themes and other attributes. There is no standard size and shape. Although many businesses and apartments may have had “take a book, leave a book” shelves for years, the idea of a network of unique structure with stewards, signage and social support began in 2010. To be officially called a Little Free Library, a free book exchange must have an official sign, number and/or listing on the Little Free Library Map of the World. More Libraries are being registered every day.
The Little Free Library movement—So many people embraced the idea of Little Free Libraries that the founders decided to organize a nonprofit network to provide more effective communication channels and support for each new Library.