Building Community with Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

Little free libraries and tiny sheds are colourful community structures created to foster neighbourhood sharing. With the enormous volume of stuff we have likely gathered in our homes, these spaces allow unused items to get a second life with someone who needs them. While little free libraries originated as a book sharing tool, many have popped up for other purposes like sharing plants, vegetable harvests, seeds, and tools.

I?m lucky to live in a creative community full of generous and sharing people who value neighbours and our neighbourhood. We have online message boards, neighbourhood grants, block parties, festivals, and a whole bunch of little free libraries. As a writer, I?m thrilled to share books and pick up a new treasure while out for a walk. Just the other day I grabbed book on writing papers in the biological sciences and a post-apocalyptic thriller. Two books I wouldn?t have sought out, but they were fun to find nonetheless!

Little Free Library Templeton Vancouver

Speaking of fun little treasures, I recently got a copy of in the mail, Which gave me an opportunity to learn a little bit more about little free libraries.

Painted Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries first started popping up only ten years ago, and now there are over . Of course, anything that?s popular comes with its own set of challenges. There are news articles about Little Free Library vandalism, city council?s that dub them ??, and . But the majority of people enjoy having these cheerful little structures to take a book or share a book, and perhaps even become the neighbourhood water cooler.
Flower Box Donating Center Photo By Bethany Nelson

Ideas for all Types of Tiny Structures

Sharing books really isn?t the only way to use this community system. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds lists a bunch of for all types of structures. They are great for ?exchanging other things, for donating goods, or even for personal storage and non-public locations.? Here are some ideas from the book:
  • Gardener?s exchange?tools, seeds, homegrown foods, growing
  • Tool booth?go-to yard and garden tools
  • 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, adults; outgrown cleats and helmets; unused balls, bats, and rackets
  • Board game library? for finding or sharing family favorites

Little Garden Shed Photo by Crystal Liepa

Tips from the Head Librarian

When thinking about installing a little free library or tiny shed there?s more to just consider and what you?ll put inside. The structure has to be able to weather the elements, have a welcoming design, and be in a permitted location. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds gives a whole bunch of great ideas for how to design everything you can think of for your little free library like adding a guest book, dog leash hook, and lighting!
Public Seed Library Photo by Crystal Liepa
Todd Bol the founder of Little Free Library, shared some tips in the book for some basic building principles.
  • Use recycled, salvage, and found materials if you can.
  • Use green building techniques whenever possible.
  • Build the library to last. Most libraries will be outside by a sidewalk or a bike or walking path, so they will need protection from rain, high and low temperatures, wind, and snow. The shelf should be strong and the box watertight. The outside walls and roof or top should be weather resistant.
  • Screws work better than nails.
  • Make it safe. Avoid using glass or any other material that can cause harm to curious children or adults. Use plexiglass on the doors so that passersby can see the books inside. If you use old would be sure it does not have lead paint on it! If you use metal, file off burrs and rough edges.
  • Make sure the signs on your library easy to read from 5 to 10 feet away.
  • Don?t feel obligated to build your library exactly like the ones you see. We value creativity!
Community Little Free Library Photo by Roger Siljander

Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

If you are looking for a creative building project for your street, school, or community garden, be sure to grab a copy of carpenter Philip Schmidt and new project book with 12 miniature structures you can build. is the builder?s complete source of inspiration and building plans for making these post-mounted strictures. Philip Schmidt includes information on proper installation of small structures and common repairs and maintenance for down the road.

Little Shed Design Photo by Crystal Liepa

Excerpts and photography reprinted with permission from Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds by Philip Schmidt and , ? 2019. Published by Cool Springs Press. Photography: Crystal Liepa, Shutterstock/Roger Siljander, iStock, Bethany Nelson/Burning Boxes of MN

More Community Building Projects to Try

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There are a number of edibles that gardeners eat plenty of, but that you may not see in the grocery store. If you do happen to find them at the market, they will be available for perhaps a short period of time, so it?s nice to know what to make with these yummy treats when you find them. We will start with garlic scapes and making delicious garlic scape pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

Grow It!

If you , then by mid to late June you should have an abundance of curly stems decorating the garlic bed.Garlic Scapes Growing

These are the flower stalks of hardneck variety garlic plants and you will want to remove them for two reasons:

First, removing the scape diverts the plant?s energy into making a bigger bulb below the soil. You want that.

Second, they are yummy! With a mild garlic flavor and the texture of a firm asparagus, they are a delightful vegetable to eat. You want that too.

Harvest garlic scapes by snapping the bottom of the flower stalk as close to the top leaves as possible. They should snap as you bend them just as you would snap the end off of a stalk of asparagus. I like to do this just as they start to make one complete circle to ensure they are nice and tender.

Harvested Garlic Scapes

Eat It!

Okay, so now what do you do with those garlicky curlicues? If you have plenty, then saut?ing them is a nice treat. you can cut the scape up into small pieces and add to any saut?ed vegetable dish, stir fry, or on their own with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.How to Make Garlic Scape Pesto

I like to make up a big batch of pesto so that I can add it to my dishes throughout the year. As you can imagine, it imparts a nice garlic flavor with just the right amount of sweetness to pair with pasta and veggies.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Walnut Garlic Scape Pesto

  • 2 cups roughly chopped garlic scapes
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (reserved)

Put all of the ingredients except the cheese into a food processor and pulse to combine into a smooth paste. Add more olive oil for a smoother consistency and add salt/pepper to taste. If you plan to use this pesto right away, add the grated cheese and blend together for a few more seconds.

If you plan to freeze a jar or so of this pesto, don?t add the cheese at this stage. Pack the pesto into freezer canning jars and label. When you thaw the pesto to use it in the future, add the grated parm then.

Garlic Scape Pesto in Jar

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