News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Little Free Libraries Show The Power Of A Box Of Books

No late fees, no due dates and no shushing librarians. Those are just some of the perks of the Little Free Libraries program. Several of them are popping up in neighborhoods across Dallas this summer.

The idea is simple. Build a small, basic structure, fill it with reading material, plop it in a neighborhood and encourage people to borrow.

Even in a world that’s increasingly digital, a box of books can be pretty magnetic. 

"Reading just kind of opens up a door"

When people think of West Dallas, the shiny new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge or the contemporary Trinity Groves restaurant incubator tends to come to mind.

But in a neighborhood known for fresh construction, some older community staples get overlooked.

“Since it’s still a developing area, we kind of got lost in the mix,” says Jamonica Washington, youth development director for the Lakewest Family YMCA. “So sometimes, when you pull it up in the GPS, it’s like, 'YMCA who?'”

Washington says that’s kind of funny, because the Lakewest Y is actually 13 years old. There’s a lot that’s new about West Dallas, but the community has been around for a while and has some age-old problems. Hunger, poverty and literacy are all issues the YMCA tries to tackle. Their new Little Free Library is part of the process.

“Reading just kind of opens up a door to a whole new world and a whole other imagination," Washington said. "It gives kids the opportunity to learn things outside of their neighborhood and just kind of be involved and read together with their families.”

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Astroturf and a more traditional bench are part of the design.

Another 16 Little Free Libraries are slated to go up in West Dallas and South Dallas. The Dallas Public LibraryBig Thought and BC workshop, a nonprofit design center, have teamed up to make it happen. One Little Free Library is being built inside a detention center. Another is made from a re-purposed paleta cart – one that used to be pushed around full of ice pops on hot summer days.

Dozens of other little libraries have sprouted up across Dallas-Fort Worth. And there are scores across the country.

Library patrons can borrow a book and bring it back. Or bring a different book back to replace it. There aren’t many rules, and the honor system is the only enforcer.  

Astroturf and reading material

The Lakewest Y Little Free Library is painted in purple, a wooden rectangle with an easy-slide door. It’s mounted next to a stained concrete bench.

But where can kids and teens lounge? A patch of bright green Astroturf that would make NFL stars jealous. This particular creation was designed by Scott Taylor and Leo Gonzalez, who volunteered their time and expertise.

Reading can be a tough sell. Just ask 15-year-old Michael McCoy.

“I do it for school, sometimes for fun. It depends if I’m bored or not,” he said. He laughs.

That's why Little Free Libraries make it as easy as possible to dig in to a good book.

Where are the libraries in Dallas?

Credit Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres
Here are the locations for the libraries that are part of the Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres in Dallas.

Build your own library

If you feel moved to build a Little Free Library, you don’t need a community center to back you. Your front yard or stoop are perfectly acceptable locations. Here’s a map of all registered Little Free Libraries. You can zoom in on your neighborhood.

Where are the libraries across North Texas?

Here's a look at some of the Little Free Libraries across Dallas-Fort Worth.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.