Sunday, May 31, 2015

Eugene’s Little Free Libraries

Little Free Library - 2580 Augusta Street, Eugene (all photos by me)

You may have seen them along the sidewalks of your neighborhood: Curious little boxes on posts, stocked with eclectic collections of books to peruse and select from. Invariably cheery, colorfully decorated, and lovingly handcrafted, they’re as individual as their creators and stewards. They’re Eugene’s little free libraries (LFL), and there are more of them around town than you might have imagined.

The concept of the little free library is a simple one. Each little free library is the handiwork of someone who loves reading, recycling, sharing, and building community. The books it contains are for anyone to borrow, with signs inviting users to donate their own. The library’s steward curates the collection, selecting titles likely to be of interest to passersby. Fundamentally, LFLs are “take a book, return a book” gathering places where neighbors share books and get to know one another.

Acorn Park Little Free Library - 1595 Buck Street, Eugene

The Little Free Library movement is a grassroots triumph. It is also a surprisingly recent cultural phenomenon: Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, unwittingly started the movement in 2009 when he honored the memory of his mother (a former schoolteacher and bibliophile) by erecting the first little free library. Since then, they’ve sprouted like so many wild mushrooms, now numbering more than 25,000 worldwide and counting. I’m aware of at least 36 LFLs in Eugene; it’s fair to say Eugene is fertile ground for these diminutive temples of literacy.

Little Free Library - 1592 Lawrence Street, Eugene

Bol and other dedicated volunteers established Little Free Library as a nonprofit corporation in 2012. The organization’s website is a treasure trove of information about LFLs, from how-to-information to an extensive gallery of installations everywhere. A part of the nonprofit’s mission is to provide little free libraries to neighborhoods in need at no cost.

Little Free Library - 3410 Grant Street, Eugene

Homeowners who build the little free libraries and install them in their front yards find they promote much more than just reading. People pick up books they otherwise might not have discovered and talk about them with others. The libraries bring neighbors together, make them smile, and cultivate interactions in a way that harkens back to a less harried time when social isolation was rare. They appeal to all generations.

Margret Aldrich, an LFL steward and author, summed up this appeal in her recently published The Little Free Library Book:

“When people pause to flip through the hardcovers and paperbacks, they are just as likely to strike up a conversation with their neighbor as they are to find their next great read. Little Free Libraries help make blocks friendlier and more connected, and the best of them become the neighborhood water cooler—an informal meeting spot that acts as a small social anchor in the community.”

Little Free Library - 2521 Moon Mountain Road, Eugene
As an architect, I especially find the place-making potential of little free libraries attractive. They do strengthen connections between people and the places they share. As vehicles of self-expression, they differentiate and humanize otherwise nondescript streetscapes. They’re works of art in the public realm; civic architecture writ small. 

155 East 34th Avenue, Eugene
Here’s the list of Eugene’s little free libraries (organized by postal zip code): 




  • 155 E. 34th Avenue
  • 2036 Willamette Street
  • 245 E. 37th Avenue
  • 2770 Olive Street
  • 2930 Garfield Street
  • 3205 Portland Street
  • 3205 Van Buren Street
  • 3410 Grant Street
  • 3987 Brae Burn Drive
  • 657 E. 39th Avenue
  • 880 W. 27th Avenue
  • 960 W. 24th Avenue
  • Building 24, Lane Community College, 4000 E. 30th Avenue
  • Corner of Monroe Street and W. 23rd Avenue
  • 285 W. 31st Avenue
  • Whitty Storeys Neighborhood Library Box: 3405 Storey Boulevard
  • Friendly Park Little Free Library #4202: Corner of Monroe Street and W. 27th Avenue
  • Friendly Street near the junction with W. 22nd Avenue
  • Loma Linda Drive (near intersection with Loma Linda Lane)

  • 2910 Tulip Street
Little Free Library - 3205 Portland Street, Eugene
Little Free Library - Corner of Monroe Street and W. 23rd Avenue, Eugene  


Eric @ Foster-Powell Little Free Library said...

I love these Little Free Libraries! I visit the one on W 23rd when I visit my family in Eugene. I feel in love with them so much that I'll be adding one to my front yard in Portland later this month! They're a great way to connect with neighbors and meet new readers in your neighborhood.

S.Dahlen said...

You missed a free library that's at 3720 Banner