Little Free Libraries (Book Exchanges) ($13,000)

13 locations - 1 in each neighborhood. Focus on parks, community gardens, or dog parks.

Informal Book Exchanges are already popular in Cambridge on streets and at the DPW yard. This project would install 13 Little Free Libraries (Book Exchanges) to support literacy, community engagement, and fun throughout the streets of our city.


Have you seen the cardboard box on the sidewalk with a FREE sign? Somehow books placed in those boxes find good homes. Image a drier and more kempt way to exchange your books. Enter Little Free Libraries where you can take a book, leave a book, and share a book. Placing a well-designed, waterproof container in each of the neighborhoods of Cambridge will improve the friendliness of the streetscape or park and possibly lead to sharing and more interactions. There are currently four little free libraries on Cambridge streets and they are well used and loved by their neighbors. Each has a magically changing selection of books for all ages. Cambridge has a reputation as one of the most well-read cities in the United State so there will be no shortage of books to exchange.

This proposal is to site 13 “little free libraries” in each of the 13 Cambridge neighborhoods, ideally in a passive park or near a street with a lot of foot traffic. Each of the neighborhoods could choose their own location or a city-wide committee could choose locations. Dog parks and community gardens are also a good place to site a little library because of the constant activity. Attaching a smaller waterproof box alongside the post of the library could serve as a place for community announcements and information exchanges. This is a project which would support literacy, community engagement, and fun throughout the streets of our city.

The cost includes purchase of well-made ready to go libraries from the nonprofit Little Free Library in Hudson, WI and DPW installation on City property.

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  • Graham Denison
    commented 2015-03-27 23:07:48 -0400
    Laura – I understand how you see that the $13,000 predicted budget seems like a lot, but as Kathy said, much of that money is likely going to funding. This could be anything from maintenance, to people taking care of the LFLs themselves. If it costs much less than $1000 to actually create a Little Free Library than that means all the more funding from the #13,000 budget to keep them running! ˙ ˘ ˙
  • Laura Roberts
    commented 2015-03-27 22:18:48 -0400
    Kathy – I would love it if there were 50 LFLs in Cambridge. I would help anyone who wants to create one. But this proposal has two flaws. First, there is no plan for how the libraries will be maintained. After several years, I know that they do not take care of themselves. People leave trash and other inappropriate materials. We need to stock the library several times a week – more books go out than come in – and that means we have to recruit donations from friends beyond our neighborhood. The proposal talks about putting these in parks where everyone and no one will take responsibility. Yes, it needs a system of volunteers… and who is going to set up that system and recruit the volunteers? The proponents haven’t worked that out. If I decide I am tired of being a steward, I remove my LFL and no public funds have been misspent. The second issue is one of scale. Any one person can make a library happen. It doesn’t require the collective effort of 13 being installed at once. Other proposals in this docket cannot happen piecemeal.
  • Kathy Watkins
    commented 2015-03-27 18:43:31 -0400
    Wow, why are you guys being so negative about an idea? I was so happy to see something positive like PB come to Cambridge. If you guys have a mini library near you, that’s great. Why don’t you want others to have the same benefit? How do you know the $13,000 doesn’t include the cost of some maintenance? I am sure there are plenty of people who would like to volunteer. I think a city as sophisticated as Cambridge can work out a system. This project costs WAY less than many of the others – maybe they can do a big money idea and a couple of small ones too. Laura, it was your library that inspired this idea and now you are knocking it?? It is fantastic that your husband took the initiative to build yours. Be proud that your and his work are spreading the mini library movement. Those of us that live in apartments don’t have access to tools and workshops to build these things. Vote as you like but don’t rain on others’ parades.
  • Laura Roberts
    commented 2015-03-27 17:56:01 -0400
    I am one of the LFL stewards and I love the whole idea of it. But we cannot just build libraries and assume they will run themselves. My husband built ours out of recycled materials and spent far less than $1000. If you love this idea, go on the LFL website and just do it!
  • Brian Thompson
    commented 2015-03-27 11:29:45 -0400
    Great idea! I would love to see one in my neighborhood (Appleton at Huron) and would contribute many books myself.
  • Kathy Watkins
    commented 2015-03-25 19:20:18 -0400
    I think this is a great idea. I just moved from Central Square to an area in Cambridge that is just being developed (Fresh Pond/Concord Ave.) There are no library branches within easy walking distance. I like that this idea involves all of Cambridge and is inexpensive. I have books I’d like to donate and would love to see what my neighbors are reading and not have to worry about the due date. I like the idea of walking the streets and seeing these libraries and browsing. This is a community building project. If needed, I would love to volunteer to maintain the little library near me.
  • Joanna Breen
    commented 2015-03-24 13:44:45 -0400
    This sounds way expensive for what little free libraries are. We have 7 big free libraries municipal dollars already pay for—Main lib, Boudreau Branch, Central Square Branch, Collins Branch, O’Connell Branch, O’Neill Branch, Valente Branch —with convenient locations near all of the neighborhoods!
  • Nellie Baxandall
    commented 2015-03-22 10:37:21 -0400
    Not 5 dad!
  • Nellie Baxandall
    commented 2015-03-22 10:36:48 -0400
    There are four little free library’s already on Shepard St., Cambridge St., Maple St. and Franklin St..
  • Phineas Baxandall
    commented 2015-03-21 23:49:15 -0400
    Little Free Libraries work well when there is a local care taker for them. I think this would look best if there was a local volunteer who was a designated caretaker. There would need to be a way to find a new caretaker when one moves away or is unable to continue the job.

    There are at least five of these Little Free Libraries in Cambridge, including one on Franklin Steet, near Putnam. That has been a real fun source of neighbor interaction.