Little Free Libraries

A Peek Inside Our Little Free Libraries

Open the blue wooden box outside the Guggenheim Memorial Library by the parking lot, and you will find nearly two dozen books waiting for a new home.

If you happened to look inside the box on the brisk morning of Thursday, Jan. 23, here is what you would have seen: several James Patterson novels, a publication manual, a historical fiction novel set in the era of the Great Depression, and a contemporary young adult novel, among many more. It’s like a library, but it’s little and free. It’s called…the Little Free Library.

Little Free Library is a non-profit book exchange created with the intent for people to “take a book, share a book”. Founded in 2009, these mini libraries have grown in prevalence over the years. There are more than 90,000 Libraries internationally, and two of them reside right here on campus: not only is there one outside the library, but there is also one on the first floor of the Plangere Center for Communication.

The University’s Little Free Libraries were placed in memory of Margaret Checton, who worked as the library’s administrative assistant for six years before passing away in May 2018. Checton was also a student in the Masters Program in English here at Monmouth.

“One of her passions was to get a Little Free Library,” said University Specialist Librarian Susan Bucks.

These libraries offer a beautiful opportunity to donate books on your shelf while picking up books you never would have come across elsewhere.

“Exposing children to books in the household really gives them an advantage academically,” said Bucks. “From the perspective on a college campus, leisure reading has been shown to promote academic success.”

She explained that reading outside of assigned textbook material has several benefits such as improving writing skills, critical thinking skills, and empathy.

Bucks said, “Research shows that health studies students, for example, display more empathy and sensitivity when they are novel readers. In our multicultural world, it is really an important life skill whether we’re dealing with coworkers, clients, patients, friends, or just people in the community in general. Having exposure through literature and novels really helps us broaden our ability to relate to people.”

There are no fines or deadlines when it comes to Little Free Libraries; readers can take a book for as long as they like, or they can return it to share with anyone else who has the fortune of coming across it. It’s like a treasure chest for books.

University Librarian Kurt Wagner said, “We put a variety of things into our Little Free Library: some books that we receive as donations, but that are not chosen to add to our collection. Some of us at the library bring in books from our own collections that we no longer want, and wish to share.”

These public bookcases inspire a new way of sharing books with members of a reading community. In fact, many students have never seen a Little Free Library before coming to Monmouth.

Those who are inspired by the Little Free Libraries here on campus can place one in their own hometown. The process is easy; once you purchase a wooden box from or build one yourself, you can register it on their website so that others can discover their community’s newest library and begin exchanging books right away.

Amanda Graves, a senior English creative writing student, book lover, and future librarian, finds her way to Monmouth’s Little Free Libraries quite often.

She said, “I took a book a couple days ago. It was a first edition of Slaughterhouse-Five. I always find neat ones and drop other ones off.” Not only does Graves exchange books at Monmouth, but she also donates books to the Little Free Library at the Upper Shores Branch of the Ocean County Library where she works.

She continued, “A lot of people who are unable to get library cards love the Little Free Libraries because they don’t have to return the books, they can just take them.”

Next time you visit the library or step into Plangere, take a peek inside a Little Free Library to grab a book, leave a book, or both. Find the books that await you. It’s a great way to catch up on leisure reading and get lost in the world of literature.

Bucks shared, “I walk into the library every morning and I kind of glance in, and there’s always a change in collection. People are pulling things out, they’re dropping things off—it is a revolving collection, so that’s nice to see.”

Millions of books are exchanged each year through Little Free Libraries, according to their official website.

“The libraries tend to reflect their location and whoever sets them up, so I think that makes each one pretty unique,” Bucks continued.

There is even a Little Free Library mounted on someone’s pickup truck. Registered on the website’s official map as “The Wanderer,” the description states, “It’s mounted on my F-150, so it can be anywhere from Philly to NYC to Work…Mostly in front of the lobby at the Ocean 7 Motel in Ocean City, NJ from April through October. But, keep an eye out, I do leave occasionally…”

Be sure to check out the Little Free Library World Map to find your next favorite book. You never really know where a Little Free Library is going to pop up.

PHOTO TAKEN by Melissa Badamo