Little Free Libraries & Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build

Little Free Libraries & Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build


$22.49 $24.99 Save 10% Current price is $22.49, Original price is $24.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, October 18


Expand the sharing movement to your community with  Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds —your complete source for building tiny sharing structures, including plans for 12 different structures, step-by-step photography and instructions, inspirational examples, and maintenance.

Around the world, a community movement is underway featuring quaint landscape structures mounted on posts in front yards and other green spaces. Some are built for personal use, as miniature sheds for gardeners or as decorative accent pieces. More commonly, though, they are evidence of the growing trend toward neighborhood organization and community outreach.

This movement has been popularized by Wisconsin-based Little Free Library (LFL), whose members currently include 75,000 stewards seeking to build community togetherness and promote reading at the same time by sharing books among neighbors. LFL has inspired builders to use similar structures to share things like CDs, food, garden tools, and seeds in the community.

Produced in cooperation with Little Free Library, Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds is the builder's complete source of inspiration and how-to knowledge. Illustrated throughout with colorful step-by-step photography and a gallery of tiny structures for further inspiration,  Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds covers every step: planning and design, tools and building techniques, best materials, and 12 complete plans for structures of varying size and aesthetics. In addition, author and professional carpenter Phil Schmidt includes information on proper installation of small structures and common repairs and maintenance for down the road.

Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds even includes information on how to become a steward, getting the word out about your little structure once it's up and running, and tips for building a lively collection.

Community togetherness has never been so at the fore of our consciousness—or so important.  Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds is one tool on the road to helping you build community in your neighborhood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760358122
Publisher: Cool Springs Press
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 735,250
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


Planning & Design

Now that you're getting serious about having a little structure of your very own, what do you want yours to be? What shape will it have? How big will it be? Where will it go? And most importantly, what will it do? These and other essential planning questions will help you get from the drawing board to a useful, lovable, tiny building with as little trouble as possible. And there's no reason to rush through the process — dreaming and planning are half the fun.

The first question to address is "What will your structure do?" Is it intended for sharing with neighbors, donating useful items, or simply storing stuff you'd like to keep at hand? Maybe it does more than one thing, or maybe the initial use will evolve into other uses. (Just because it's tiny doesn't mean it's not versatile.) The primary purpose, or purposes, of the structure will say a lot about what it should look like, where it should live, and how it should be built.

Where your structure lives is an important consideration that may involve decision makers outside your household — namely, those at city hall or your homeowners association (HOA). While restrictions are not very common, some cities and HOAs have rules about (or against) little structures intended for public sharing, and some may impose requirements on anything you put in your front yard. It's best to check with the powers that be before taking your project to the drawing board.

For some people, the biggest question may be the how: how will you turn your vision into reality? There are many options. You can buy a finished little building, and even an assembled post mount, ready to install. At the other end of the spectrum, you might design a totally custom project and build it all from scratch. Somewhere in the middle, a lot of tiny-structure builders choose to upcycle a found or salvaged item, creating something that's both unique and resource-efficient.

In this chapter, you'll learn about all these options and considerations, as well as some tips and ideas for decorating and outfitting your structure to make it truly yours. Want to make it kid-friendly? Or maybe dog-friendly? How about lighting it up with a built-in night-light?


Planning starts here because a structure's purpose is the primary guide behind most aspects of its design. You might approach this by asking a related question: what do you want to share or store? The items housed in your building dictate its size and sometimes its shape and interior layout.

For example, if you want to share books, you'll need plenty of space for standard-size books, and perhaps some extra room for a shelf or two (see Sizing for Books). If you'd like your structure to promote sharing of other items — like seeds or tools or dog toys — you might include special shelves or compartments designed for these items.

Multiple shelves not only increase storage space but also make items more accessible to both kids and adults. One fun way to serve the littlest kids is to include a separate mini structure that mounts below the main structure. The same idea can be used to create a self-serve compartment for dogs.

A simple method to determine how much space you might need as well as how to lay out the interior of your structure is to gather some representative items and measure them — together and individually. If you want the flexibility to store tall items when necessary, you can plan for adjustable shelves that can be moved or removed as needed.


Sharing books is just one way to use tiny structures. They're also great for exchanging other things, for donating goods, or even for personal storage in nonpublic locations. Here are a few ideas for different uses (the ideas are free for the taking, so don't hesitate to borrow, share, give away, or build on any of them):

• Gardeners' exchange — tools, seeds, homegrown foods, growing tips

• Tool booth — go-to yard and garden tools (see here)

• Homeowners' depot — home repair and remodeling tools, DIY books, building materials, hardware

• CD swap — music, movies, video games

• Kitchen pantry — kitchen tools, recipes, cookbooks, dry goods, food magazines

• Clothes and equipment closet — hand-me-down clothes for babies, kids, or adults; outgrown cleats and helmets; unused balls, bats, and racquets

• Board game library — for finding or sharing family favorites

• Give box — food, clothing, and other essentials for the needy


Books come in all shapes and sizes (thankfully), but most are no taller than 12" and no wider than 11". Standard bookshelves tend to be around 12" tall and 11" to 12" deep. Large coffee-table books and art books are notable exceptions but seldom are wider than 12", allowing them to fit on a shelf when laid flat.

When planning a structure for sharing books, make sure the usable interior space is at least 12" high, 12" deep, and 12" wide. That's a pretty small lending library, so you might go bigger than that. If you go high enough, you can accommodate a second shelf, even if it's a short shelf area (great for small paperbacks and children's board books) above a standard 12"-high shelf, or a compartment below.

Make sure your library has plenty of usable interior space — including a second shelf, if possible, and even compartments for smaller paperback series.


Structures intended for community lending or sharing present some special considerations. Since the object is to attract lots of visitors for an active and lively exchange, the structure should be both inviting and user- friendly. It should also be designed to handle all those visitors and their handling of the structure.

Mounting:Make sure your structure is secure and, in most cases, off the ground. Whether it's parked next to the sidewalk in front of your house or on community property or in another public place, structures designed for sharing tend to work best when mounted on a post, fence, tree, or other handy permanent support. Structures off the ground get noticed and are easy to work around with snow shovels and the like. They're also securely anchored to the ground so they can't be tipped over (and are less likely to wander off in the night).

Visibility:Make sure visitors can see your structure. Choose a location that will be noticeable to passersby, and think about design features that are inviting. For example, a see-through door provides an instant glimpse of what's inside, which can be much more meaningful than a sign. When visitors are exploring the contents up close, a brightly painted interior eliminates shadows and dark corners in the back of the structure.

Accessibility:Make sure visitors can get to your structure. Accessibility is related to mounting (where and how high you install your structure) and to visibility (making it noticeable), but it also incorporates usability factors: Is it a nice place to stop and browse the collection? Can everyone get to it easily? Can it be seen at night? See here for some easy ways to add lighting.

Signage:Let visitors know what your structure is about. Don't assume everyone will understand how to use your exchange, or even that they're familiar with Little Free Libraries. Include a sign (or lettering) with basic instructions for using the exchange. A few popular examples:

• "Take a Book, Share a Book"

• "Give What You Can, Take What You Need"

• "Need Something? Take Something. Have Something? Leave Something."

• "Take One, Leave One"

• "Help Another, Help Yourself"

• "Free (fill in the blank)" You can also include notes suggesting a theme for your exchange:

• "Seed Exchange"

• "Books about Animals"

• "Field Guides"

Door Features:Design your door for the masses. Provide means for keeping the door closed, whether it's a turn-button latch, an antique gate handle, or a magnetic catch. If you find that your door is left open even though it has a latch, consider installing self- closing hinges. Other essential door features include acrylic glazing instead of glass (for safety; see Glazing) and a design that keeps out rain and snow (see Mother Nature).

Amenities:Consider user experience. Successful exchanges not only attract new visitors; they also turn first-time visitors into regulars. Here are a few ideas for built-in features that will keep 'em coming back (also see Tips for a Lively Collection):

• Seating area(s)

• Dog-leash hook

• Low shelf or mini structure for tiny visitors (of all species)

• Compartment for bookmarks, community fliers, comment or request cards, and so on

• Tethered bike tools

• Lights (see Lighting)


Finding the best location, getting permission, and addressing concerns about public use (and related problems such as vandalism) are primary considerations for structures intended for community sharing. If you're building a structure for private use in your backyard, you might not need a go-ahead from anyone besides other household members. Just be aware that if your city considers your structure to be an "accessory building," it may be subject to setback rules and other zoning restrictions. Setbacks prohibit permanent structures within a given distance from your property line. For example, a city may not allow structures within 5 feet of a property line at the sides or rear of a lot, or within 20 or more feet from the front curb or street.


If your structure is set up for neighborhood or community exchange, you want others to feel as though the structure belongs to them, not just you. After all, it's your gift to the neighborhood. Make sure it's easy to find, easy to see from the street or sidewalk, and easy to reach. It also helps if you can see the structure from a nearby window in your house.

The little building is its own best advertising, especially if people driving by can see it and stop without blocking traffic. If possible, try to have it within reach of streetlights or give it its own lighting.

If you install your structure in front of your home, place it on your property near the sidewalk, not on the boulevard between the sidewalk and the street.

To install your structure on public property, be sure to get the proper permission. You may need to check with park boards, school administrators, business owners, or other decision makers.


Many people wonder why governments have so many policies, rules, and regulations, or why it seems that they make it so hard to do something nice. The same might be said of HOAs. Regardless of the name or type of authority, they're all governing bodies that have similar concerns, such as:

• Liability and safety

• Right of way — both legal and actual — for snowplows, bicyclists, walkers, and cars and other vehicles

• Physical maintenance in case of damage or normal wear and tear

• Appropriateness for the general public (children and adults)

In addition, a parks administrator or streets engineer might ask who will be responsible for both the structure and its contents over the long term. If an organization or individual is the key contact, for example, what should the government agency do when that person is no longer willing or able to be the caretaker of the structure?

In short, government officials want to minimize the administrative burden while trying to satisfy various public wishes. And the bigger the city, the more rigorous the zoning laws can be. Small-town governments tend to have more flexibility.

If your hope is to install a community structure, find out whose regulations and rules might apply. Confirm that your plans fall within those regulations. If they don't, consider how you can make it as easy as possible to do what you want anyway. Here are some options:

• Avoid the problem entirely by putting your structure near public land but not on it — for example, across the street or nearby, on property that belongs to someone who is willing (even eager) to have it there.

• Talk to the person in charge of enforcing or managing compliance with the regulations. Ask for his or her advice rather than permission. Explain how the exchange will belong to everyone and should cause no major problems. Take a picture of the spot you'd like to use, or invite the official to show you a better place. Ask what you need to do to comply. It might be easier than you think.

• Fill out and submit the required applications or permit forms.

• Seek a variance in the zoning rules if absolutely necessary. Provide evidence that your project (an exchange provided for the neighborhood, not just for one family) deserves it.

• Suggest that the government, HOA, or co-op board obtain the structure, and that you or your group work with them to support and maintain it.

• Be nice. If things don't work out exactly as you would like, ask something like "Is there any other way I can locate my structure in this area or nearby? Where do you (the official) think might be a good place?"

As an example of how a city parks department might handle these matters, here are the basic proposal requirements from the city of Madison, Wisconsin, to request a park modification such as a library or other exchange:

1. Detailed description of the project

2. Exact location in the park (with a map, if possible)

3. Maintenance and upkeep plan

4. Any alterations or impacts to the park, if applicable

5. Budget

6. Timeline for implementation


The question of vandalism is a natural one. You might wonder, "Who would damage a free library or a neighborhood give box?" Well, the same kind of person who might set off firecrackers in mailboxes. Thrill seekers. Kids in groups, for example. Drunk people.

The next natural question is, what might keep them from doing that? The answer lies in thinking like a mischief maker. The more he believes that he might be caught, the less likely he is to do the damage. When planning where your exchange will be, try answering these questions from a vandal's point of view:

• "Will someone see me?" If the structure is in your front yard, keep your front light on or have it near a streetlight. Put it where passing traffic can see it.

• "Will it be easy to break or take?" If it has glass in it, yes. Plexiglas can be easily broken too, but you can replace it. If your structure has artwork or hardware that can be removed, you are tempting fate.

• "Can I break off a piece of the structure?" Anything that sticks out can be awfully tempting to someone inclined toward vandalism or rushes of youthful energy.

• "Does anybody really care?" If the structure is surrounded by weeds and trash, or is not well maintained, it's more likely to be damaged. If it's in the front yard of a beloved, friendly neighbor, it's more likely to be safe.


Excerpted from "Little Free Libraries & Tiny Sheds"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Todd H. Bol, Founder Little Free Library 6

Introduction 8

1 Planning & Design 11

What Will Your Structure Do? 12

Location, Permission & Other Considerations 15

Buy, Find, Assemble, or Build Your Own? 19

Ideas for Adding Curb Appeal 20

2 Building Basics 25

Good Materials for Little Structures 25

Mother Nature (Preparing for Foul Weather) 29

Helpful Tools & Techniques 31

Painting & Staining 39

3 Project Plans 45

One-Story Shed Kit 47

Mini Shed 53

Rustic Shed 61

Flower Box 69

Two-Story Shed 75

Modern Two-Story 83

Tobacco Barn 91

Cedar Roof Basic 97

First Little Free Library 105

Give Box 113

Kitchen Cabinet Upcycle 121

Tool Booth 129

4 Installing Your Structure 137

Post Mounting 138

Straightening a Leaning Post 142

Hanging from Trees & Fences 143

Freestanding Structures 145

5 Why Start a Little Free Library? Margret Aldrich, Media + Programming Manager, Little Free Library 147

Getting the Word Out about Your Library 151

Encouraging Community Involvement 153

Tips for a Lively Collection 154

How to Register Your Library 156

Gallery: Little Free Libraries Around the World 158

Conversions 172

Photography Credits 173

Index 174

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews