Donate Books to a Little Free Library Near You

A Little Free Library in Traverse City, Michigan.
A Little Free Library in Traverse City, Michigan.
Little Free Library

In 2010, Todd Bol’s neighbors gathered at his home in Hudson, Wisconsin, for what was intended to be an ordinary garage sale. But the most memorable piece among the offerings wasn’t a priceless antique or a flashy family heirloom—in fact, it wasn’t even for sale.

The item in question was a 2-foot-by-2-foot wooden box, painted to resemble an old-fashioned schoolhouse, mounted to a post in his front yard and filled with books. Bol had created it as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher and book lover, with the intention of creating a small neighborhood book exchange.

People were so taken with the idea that Bol built a few more book boxes and gave them away. Then he partnered with his friend Rick Brooks to found an organization promoting his endeavor, which they decided to call the Little Free Library.

Inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s goal of constructing more than 2508 (full-sized) free public libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Bol and Brooks set out to mimic his work in miniature: By the end of 2013, they wanted more than 2508 Little Free Libraries in existence across the nation.

Little Free Library

Over the next two years, the hopeful founders saw the early enthusiasm from Bol’s neighbors mirrored in communities all around the world. With the help of media coverage from national outlets like NBC Nightly News, Bol and Brooks surpassed their goal in August 2012, and, by the end of that year, 4000 Little Free Libraries had popped up just about everywhere.

“I thought it was just a flash in the pan, like a pet rock,” Bol’s brother Tony told The New York Times. But the Little Free Library continued to see lightning growth, even after its founders were no longer spearheading the operation—Brooks retired in 2014, and Bol passed away from pancreatic cancer four years later.

Today, there are more than 90,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 91 countries, from Finland to Chile, Nigeria to Pakistan, and beyond. The organization has collaborated with authors like John Grisham, run promotions for films like 2019’s Little Women, and donated more than 1000 Little Free Libraries to communities in need with its Impact Library Program. Throughout all the expansion, its mission has remained remarkably unchanged: Take a book, leave a book, and strengthen your community through literacy.

“Whether you strike up a conversation with someone at your library or find a thank you note from a neighbor in your library, you’ll feel more connected to your community,” Margret Aldrich, author of The Little Free Library Book, tells Mental Floss.

The tiny libraries can inspire a new generation of book-loving humanitarians, too.

“When a child helps run a Little Free Library, they not only get excited about reading, they take pride in caring for the little library, keeping it neat and full of books, and realizing how wonderful it feels to share books and give back to their community,” Aldrich says.

There are countless ways to contribute to Little Free Library, which range from monetary donations to constructing your own book-sharing box. Read on for more information on how to get involved, and explore the Little Free Library website here.

Leave a few books in your local Little Free Library.

The Little Free Library has an interactive map where you can search for a nearby book-sharing box. If you live in the U.S., there’s probably one closer than you think.

As for deciding which books to contribute, that’s entirely up to you. According to Aldrich, children’s books “are often the first things to fly off the shelf,” and picture books and graphic novels are especially great for reluctant readers. For advanced readers, a few of her own personal favorites have been Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Establish your own Little Free Library.

For people looking to establish book sharing boxes in their communities, Little Free Library offers a wealth of resources, including building blueprints, installation tips, and more.

If you’re not quite comfortable making one from scratch, don’t worry—the organization has an online store with a variety of already-constructed models and several DIY kits, too.

Start an Action Book Club.

The free Action Book Club program encourages people to combine reading and community service. Essentially, you register your group here, you pick a book to read and discuss, and then you complete a service project in your community. After that, you can share your experience here for a chance to be featured on the Little Free Library website.

There are lists of recommended books and service activities to help guide your book club, but—as is always the case with Little Free Library—you’re also free to choose your own.

Donate to the cause.

Because Little Free Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all monetary donations are tax-deductible. After you make a donation, you’ll receive a confirmation email that you can use as a receipt.

Your donations will go toward the installation of new libraries through the Impact Library Program, resources for Action Book Clubs, and more of Little Free Library’s philanthropic projects.

Donate here.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

1. Apple AirPods Pro; $219

Apple

You may not know it by looking at them, but these tiny earbuds by Apple offer HDR sound, 30 hours of noise cancellation, and powerful bass, all through Bluetooth connectivity. These trendy, sleek AirPods will even read your messages and allow you to share your audio with another set of AirPods nearby.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

2. Sony Zx220bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones (Open Box - Like New); $35

Sony

For the listener who likes a traditional over-the-ear headphone, this set by Sony will give you all the same hands-free calling, extended battery power, and Bluetooth connectivity as their tiny earbud counterparts. They have a swivel folding design to make stashing them easy, a built-in microphone for voice commands and calls, and quality 1.18-inch dome drivers for dynamic sound quality.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

3. Sony Xb650bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones; $46

Sony

This Sony headphone model stands out for its extra bass and the 30 hours of battery life you get with each charge. And in between your favorite tracks, you can take hands-free calls and go seamlessly back into the music.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

4. Martha Stewart 8-quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker; $65

Martha Stewart

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new pressure cooker, this 8-quart model from Martha Stewart comes with 14 presets, a wire rack, a spoon, and a rice measuring cup to make delicious dinners using just one appliance.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

5. Jashen V18 350w Cordless Vacuum Cleaner; $180

Jashen

If you're obsessive about cleanliness, it's time to lose the vacuum cord and opt for this untethered model from JASHEN. Touting a 4.3-star rating from Amazon, the JASHEN cordless vacuum features a brushless motor with strong suction, noise optimization, and a convenient wall mount for charging and storage.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

6. Evachill Ev-500 Personal Air Conditioner; $65

Evachill

This EvaChill personal air conditioner is an eco-friendly way to cool yourself down in any room of the house. You can set it up at your work desk at home, and in just a few minutes, this portable cooling unit can drop the temperature by 59º. All you need to do is fill the water tank and plug in the USB cord.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

7. Gourmia Gcm7800 Brewdini 5-Cup Cold Brew Coffee Maker; $120

Gourmia

The perfect cup of cold brew can take up to 12 hours to prepare, but this Gourmia Cold Brew Coffee Maker can do the job in just a couple of minutes. It has a strong suction that speeds up brew time while preserving flavor in up to five cups of delicious cold brew at a time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

8. Townew: The World's First Self-Sealing Trash Can; $90

Townew

Never deal with handling gross garbage again when you have this smart bin helping you in the kitchen. With one touch, the Townew will seal the full bag for easy removal. Once you grab the neatly sealed bag, the Townew will load in a new clean one on its own.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

9. Light Smart Solar Powered Parking Sensor (Two-Pack); $155

FenSens

Parking sensors are amazing, but a lot of cars require a high trim to access them. You can easily upgrade your car—and parking skills—with this solar-powered parking sensor. It will give you audio and visual alerts through your phone for the perfect parking job every time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

10. Liz: The Smart Self-Cleaning Bottle With UV Sterilization; $46

Noerden

Reusable water bottles are convenient and eco-friendly, but they’re super inconvenient to get inside to clean. This smart water bottle will clean itself with UV sterilization to eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. That’s what makes it clean, but the single-tap lid for temperature, hydration reminders, and an anti-leak functionality are what make it smart.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

San Pedro, California Is Home to the Country’s Only Volunteer-Run Post Office

A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There are more than 30,000 post offices in the United States, but only one of them is staffed entirely by volunteers. As Fast Company reports, the nonprofit-run Assistance League Post Office has been serving customers in San Pedro, California, since 1964.

The Assistance League Post Office is one of many contract postal units around the country. Contract postal units are run privately instead of publicly, usually by a business. The post office in San Pedro is unique in that it's operated by a nonprofit organization.

More than 50 years ago, the San Pedro chapter of the Assistance League opened the post office to service its growing community, which includes the Port of Los Angeles. The location only sold stamps for decades, then expanded into a full-service post office in 1990. In addition to running the local postal service, the Assistance League of San Pedro provides low-income residents with orthodontia care, glasses, sexual assault survivor kits, and new school clothes—all resources that revenue from the post office helps pay for.

To make its charitable mission possible, the post office relies on volunteers. Post office chairman Gayle Merrick runs a staff of 17 volunteers—all retired women between the ages of 65 and 87. Their backgrounds range from medicine to education, and they commit to giving three to four days of their time to the post office each month. Many people who volunteer at the Assistance League Post Office stick around for a while; the longest-serving volunteer worked there for a quarter of a century.

The San Pedro post office closed to the public in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its customers and volunteers are still waiting for it to return. Merrick tells Fast Company that she hopes to reopen by October 1, in time to help process local mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

[h/t Fast Company]