Libraries are popping up everywhere

No doubt many of you have come across wildcat mini-libraries popping up in peoples’ yards, in old callboxes, and any number of other places. Until recently, I had only seen these online. But then one day, walking with Lucy about six blocks from our temporary apartment, I ran into one in real life. A few weeks later I saw another one. And then a few days ago I saw a third one. And all within walk distance of our digs.

Of course each time I pass one I have to see what books lurk inside. For the most part I don’t see much that interests me. And being here in DC, I also come across more non-fiction than I think is healthy. :) But the other day I saw a book I really wanted and so I took it. And not just “oh, that might be interesting”, but rather “oh, I’ve been looking for this book, hooray”. So this morning when I took Lucy out for her walk I filled up my messenger bag with books so I could leave some items in the two mini-libraries we would pass by.

This is the first little library I came across.

This was the situation when I arrived. Now I realize I missed that Vonnegut and it is one that I haven’t read. Shoot.

My four additions (starting with Dissident Gardens and ending with A Cup of Tea). Is it wrong I only added books I didn’t like? I do know, however, that each of those four have an audience and will be enjoyed by those who enjoy that kind of thing.

I was told by the keeper of the first mini-library, that this one, just a few blocks further down the road is an old medicine cabinet. And the owner apparently loves herbs.

The situation when I arrived. This is the place I found the Ambler pictured below.

The situation when I left. Normally I like Rose Macaulay, but this one not so much, plus I have a HC edition at home. Fin & Lady was just okay, the Messud is a duplicate, and Beautiful Ruins I didn’t like.


This was the book I was so giddy to find. I’ve become a big Ambler fan this year and I haven’t read this one yet.

Lucy helped.


34 thoughts on “Libraries are popping up everywhere

  1. Tom July 19, 2014 / 12:19 pm

    Glad you found A Coffin for Dimitrios , it was first Eric Ambler I read based your recommendation of him; enjoy!


  2. (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea July 19, 2014 / 1:15 pm

    I love that people have found a way to share their love of books with other. There are a few of these around where we walk near my daughters.


  3. Lisa July 19, 2014 / 1:49 pm

    I have yet to see one, though I've read about several in the Houston area. I wouldn't be able to walk past without checking what's inside either. If I ever move from apartments to a house, I'd love to open one of my own.


  4. Susan in TX July 19, 2014 / 2:28 pm

    I haven't seen any of these in my neck of the woods either, but I love the idea.


  5. Serenknitity July 19, 2014 / 2:41 pm

    I kinda hope this doesn't catch on in London. My TBR pile is overwhelming as it is and yet I'm still greedy for more. There are a couple of tables at local supermarkets with tatty paperbacks, sold for charity, which I inevitably peruse. Always relieved when they are dire romances.


  6. CarolS July 19, 2014 / 9:32 pm

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful notion, I haven't seen any either but there are many charity shops close (NW London) where even new books are extremely cheap, and being London they're not infrequently proofs or review copies so not yet in the book shops. Walking leads to more than just healthy exercise!


  7. Farheen July 20, 2014 / 3:19 am

    I've started an online initiative on my blog since in Karachi we can't have mobile libraries on our doorstep. We have huge boundary walls around our houses and some of us have personal guards too so it's impossible to have something like this. And in case we decide to have one, it'll probably be gone the next day.
    But this has me thinking….I can even ask people for certain titles I'd like in exchange for the books I send them. Here's my initiative on my blog (


  8. joan.kyler July 20, 2014 / 8:01 am

    What a terrific idea! I haven't seen any of these around Philly.

    And, as always, I love Lucy!


  9. July 20, 2014 / 9:41 am

    I don't think I could build one of these, but because of the recent remodelling job in our bathroom, I do have an old medicine cabinet…


  10. CarolS July 20, 2014 / 10:33 am

    What great responses here. I have generally have a box of books destined for Oxfam. Maybe I should offer them online too but locally. Food for thought.


  11. July 20, 2014 / 1:57 pm

    I love little libraries! I need to see about getting the one at our favorite park repaired so we can restock it.


  12. Jeane July 20, 2014 / 6:06 pm

    I would be unable to resist stopping to look, too. And I'd have snatched the Guinea Pig Diaries. I don't think there's anything wrong with leaving books you don't like- someone else is bound to enjoy them. I do that with book swapping online- I mail out books I didn't love enough to keep, and get ones I really do want in exchange. It's great. Never seen one of these mini libraries in person, but I think my sister has (in Seattle).


  13. Ruthiella July 20, 2014 / 10:14 pm

    There are two of these mini-libraries that have popped up in my neighborhood as well. I love this idea. Your photos show a better book selection for my tastes, however, than what I have seen on my dog walks. I would have snapped up the Vonnegut, the Mielville and the Game of Throne titles. I keep meaning to drop off a few anyway, but haven’t yet. Since I have three dogs, walking them with a bag on my arm would be difficult. I need both hands at all times, so I would have to have a backpack. Also, it is so hot here in California most evenings, I usually walk the dogs in the dark, when it is cooler. Excuses, excuses!

    I think the idea is to give away those books you didn’t like, so don’t feel bad. Your disappointing read will be someone else’s treasure. Congratulations on the Ambler find. I love it when books serendipitously find their way to the right reader.


  14. JudyMac July 20, 2014 / 10:49 pm

    I've seen only one–in a neighborhood not too far from where I live when I was cruising through to an estate sale (probably my very best source of finding great used books). Wonder what their book turnover is? If you frequent the ones you've pictured, why don't you report back to us on that, say, in a couple of months. It's a great idea, but I'm curious as to how long they really hold the neighborhood's interest.


  15. Teresa July 21, 2014 / 7:02 pm

    Whenever there's a supply of free books, I can't help but take a look. If I walked past a couple of these each day, I'd check them out every time.

    On another subject, I see a Carrie: The Musical flyer there. Did you go see that? I'm seeing it next weekend.


  16. Holly (2 Kids and Tired) July 22, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    I have never come across a tiny free library like these. Part of that is probably because I live in a more rural setting, but I think they're the greatest things. I wouldn't be able to pass one by and not look in it.


  17. Thomas at My Porch July 27, 2014 / 9:00 pm

    And a good way for me to unload books that don't have room in my library anymore.


  18. Thomas at My Porch July 27, 2014 / 9:01 pm

    Well it sure doesn't get any cheaper than free so that is at least on the plus side.


  19. Thomas at My Porch July 27, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    It's also kind of fun that they popped up on our regular route. It's like they knew I would be passing.


  20. Thomas at My Porch July 27, 2014 / 9:11 pm

    That would be hard with three dogs, but I would be so tempted to improve the offerings in your local mini-libraries.


  21. Thomas at My Porch July 27, 2014 / 9:12 pm

    So far, I have seen movement in both of them. In one of the libraries only one of my four books is still there.


  22. Stacey July 29, 2014 / 11:39 am

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the little library and the Ambler book. Thank you for the lovely note too.

    Stacey – owner of the library with the Eric Ambler book


  23. Lu @ Regular Rumination August 9, 2014 / 5:52 pm

    Now that we are in a place where it's feasible for us to have a Little Free Library I really want one, but we're in a condo and I don't think our HOA would let us. Boo.


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