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If little libraries could talk,
what would they say?
by tony bol
Each little library has a conversation with its neighborhood, and they have lots to say.

After visiting hundreds of little libraries in different states, I have reviewed a range of notes taped to library windows and instructions from stewards that activate a local exchange box. I have looked for the reoccurring trends about little library messages and made a few observations along the way.

A clear invitation to donate books is at the top of a little library’s messaging list and replenishing its books is an essential navigation. I have seen multiple ways that owners ask for books, especially children’s books. This seems to be important to newly installed libraries before a network of sharing is established. I have also seen signage that tells visitors that a library has recently rotated its inventory with fresh books as an effort to engage regulars to stop and take another look. A request for books often is curatorial in nature, with a specific request for certain types of books. Indeed, encouraging the cycling of books will always be a significant communication.

Another consistent category for little library owners relates to a concerning nature. Frequently, this is a request to limit the number of books taken to just a few, particularly in places where libraries get cleared out all at once causing dismay. It is unfortunate that sometimes firm messages are needed, but they do help establish a public standard that is reasonable. After a little library has suffered a bout of vandalism, some messages veer from a stern security warning to an appeal for mercy. These reminders tell visitors that little libraries do good work and promote a value of sharing for the whole community. Words of concern can help rally neighbors to an issue and bring the little library on a course to corrective action.

The third category of signage is inspired value statements. These are messages that embrace a general appreciation, a core cause or a kind sentiment. These posted remarks include words of global goodwill, environmental awareness, and the capacity for human generosity. These are value statements that have specific meaning to the steward and their neighborhood.

Following these types of messages, steward comments found on little libraries vary a great deal and relate to their personal set of interests. Some libraries offer a special invitation to dog owners with treats, water, and something to hold a leash. Others ask for shared words and comments in their guest books. Some invite the sharing of a garden harvest, canned goods or even painted rocks. These targeted invitations are what make little libraries work so well. It is these surprises that keeps the doors opening on sharing boxes.

What do you feel little libraries would like to say?

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