Little free libraries—small freestanding structures containing books that passersby can take or leave behind their own reads—have been popping in front yards, alleyways and in front of businesses all over. Started by a Wisconsin man who created a little free library in 2009 to honor his late mother, the movement has expanded internationally, with libraries in all 50 states and over 70 countries according to the Little Free Library’s website.
The goal of these small (often homemade) structures is to spread literacy and foster community. Both worthy missions, right?
However, not all cities support these efforts, as The Atlantic reports. Residents in Kansas, California and perhaps other jurisdictions have received letters threatening fines for “illegal detached structures” and other alleged infractions.
While little free libraries located in communities with a homeowners’ association may fall into a grey area, especially if the HOA bylaws are strict about maintaining uniformity and order, some HOAs have actually proven to be allies in this movement.
One HOA in North Carolina promotes its little free library on its website, and the Houston Chronicle reports that the Firethorne homeowner’s associate board agreed to fund several little free libraries. Little Free Libraries even has a free neighborhood toolkit available online for neighborhoods who want to add a little free library.
A rusty, splintery structure may be an eyesore and a possible safety issue, but a well-maintained Little Library can nurture young readers and provide residents with a deeper sense of community engagement.
Little free libraries are especially attractive to communities where the HOA includes lots of young families in need of reading material or retirees who may want a project or sense of purpose. These could actually be a selling point for potential buyers as it shows community engagement and a spirit of sharing.