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  • Writer's pictureCamelot Garden Club

A Sustainable Neighborhood Bookshelf – The “Green” Little Free Library in the Camelot Neighborhood

Updated: May 15, 2023

Are you ever standing in front of your bookcase, your most recent acquisition in hand, wondering where to put that gorgeous new find on perennial gardening? Several shelves are filled with wonderfully photographed volumes about designing with nature, gardening with colors and growing a rose garden. There is a section of very informative books on designing with natives and planting attractive containers for your front porch. Tucked away on a bottom shelf sits a little collection of hardly used paperbacks on how to do hardscaping, ideas for trellises, and making your own compost. Not to mention the artfully photographed compilations of works by renowned garden designers and landscape architects that are gracing your coffee table. While you still wonder where to but the latest book, you might want to start thinking about a Little Free Library to free up some space.

A family in the Camelot neighborhood in Annandale is using the concept of the Free Little Library to make room on their crammed bookcase. In their front yard, they set up a “green” library dedicated to horticulture, garden design, and all things nature, they share their books on gardening with others. At the same time, their neighbors are encouraged to circulate books of their own.

The “Green” Free Little Library sits in the front yard of their home surrounded by a flower garden. A few stepping stones lead the way and while browsing books, readers are surrounded by bees and butterflies. They stewards build the library themselves, adding a green roof that is waterproofed, filled with growing material and planted with sedum and other small vegetation.

For a little over ten years, Little Free Libraries have been promoting neighborhood book exchange through publicly accessible book shelves that are usually set up in a private front yard. The aim of this global movement is to foster access to reading materials for people of all backgrounds and ages. The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 in Wisconsin and was incorporated as a non-profit in 2012. Since then, more than 90.000 Little Free Libraries have sprung up all over the world, constructed, installed and maintained by devoted private citizens, their stewards. In order to call their front yard library a “Free Little Library” the stewards pay a fee to the non-profit to receive a plaque and to enter their library on a map. The motto of these libraries is “Take a book, share a book”, encouraging the casual passerby to either take a book, read it, and to later return it to this same location, to donate it to another Free Little Library, or to gift the book to someone else who might enjoy it. Some stewards stamp their books in order to avoid that the stack ends up being part of a re-sale.

If you are planning to build a Free Little Library of your own you can either purchase a kit or you will find plenty of inspiration on how to build one online on Pinterest or YouTube. While any Free Little Library focuses on book exchange, there are more ways to share your passion for gardening with others. Think about adding a seed library, a little box with envelopes filled with seeds from your garden. Encourage a plant exchange by offering some space for swapping seedlings next to the library. Some stewards add a bench or other options to linger while browsing books. Seasonal changes of content, including books for all age groups, the expansion of content into the realm sustainability, growing and eating local, crafting with nature, using what you grow in the kitchen might make the library even more interesting and attractive to a wider audience. The possibilities are endless and will bring tons of fun and inspiration to your neighborhood.

Before diving into looking for building plans, material, or even ordering one of the DYI-Kits, make sure you are aware of the regulations for your neighborhood. If your zoning laws or HOA rules will not permit a library in your own front yard, consider collaborating with a community partner to establish and maintain a library on their property. Some Little Free Libraries live in front of schools, retirement homes or church community centers.

Looking for more inspiration and information? At you'll find tons of materials and information on setting one up your and about becoming a steward.

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