Little Free Libraries Near You
Our area is filled with tiny troves of free books for avid readers. Take one, share one or build your own.
Looking for something good to read? Little free libraries are an easy, affordable and fun way to get a book in these pandemic times. And we’ve got lots of them around here.
The Little Free Library organization won the World Literacy Foundation’s 2020 award for making a significant contribution to global literacy. In March, the number of registered book-sharing boxes—with their “Take a book /Share a book” motto—topped more than 100,000, with mini libraries now located in all 50 states and 108 countries.
That includes more than 100 in Arlington, McLean and Falls Church, mostly tucked into neighborhoods, plus a few in or near public buildings. Some have been built by scout troops or students as service projects. Take a bike ride or walk to find them using the Little Free Library map.
Free books notwithstanding, the designs of these little structures are often treasures in their own right—like the architectural homage the Arlington home of African-American surgeon Charles R. Drew, director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank. The mini replica of the Drew House is located in the lobby of Sequoia Plaza at 2100 Washington Blvd.
A repository called “Grow,” on South Garfield St. (#65607 on the Little Free Library map), offers gardening books and free seeds.
Rachel Cohen’s diminutive library at 244 N. Greenbrier St., painted by her son, is decorated in images of their family’s favorite books. “Children’s books are VERY popular,” Cohen says, noting that their book chest is almost always full and includes a variety of titles, from cookbooks to novels, home repair and self-help.
“We also landscape around the library and added a solar light for evening walkers,” she adds.
With the arrival of Covid-19, some library stewards have begun using the little way stations to collect and distribute not just books, but also household goods, face masks, toilet paper and more, to help neighbors in need. A few have staged collection boxes for the Arlington Food Assistance Center in or below their libraries. Visit Little Free Library’s sharing-box map to find or add sharing locations.
For bibliophiles interested in building their own, Little Free Library’s website has library kits for purchase, as well as links to free building plans and tutorials, including How to turn a cabinet into a Little Free Library and How to build a library with a living roof. Lots more inspiration can be found on the nonprofit’s Instagram page, from a Sesame Street styled trash-to-treasure library made from a garbage can and old washer, to a Harry Potter-themed “Flourish & Blotts.”
This summer, three new libraries will be coming to underserved Arlington neighborhoods, courtesy of the HDR Architecture office in Clarendon, which held an internal design-build competition with the goal of engaging readers and fostering community, while also introducing contemporary architecture on a smaller, more personal scale.
The competition was funded by the firm’s nonprofit HDR Foundation and the library locations were selected in partnership with Aspire! Afterschool Learning. The winning libraries are tentatively scheduled to be installed in August, including one at the Whitefield Commons Apartments in Arlington’s Buckingham neighborhood. Designed for book exchanging, reading and socializing, it includes shaded benches and landscape elements.