Want to Design Your Own Little Free Library?

Enter the Seattle Design Festival’s Little Free Libraries Design/Build Competition
Posted July 30, 2014

You’ve seen them popping up all over Seattle: they look like elaborate birdhouses or mailboxes, but instead of housing birdseed or ads—thankfully!—they’re filled with books. Books! For free! The small-scale, outdoor book shelters (see our March 2014 roundup of these literary wonders here) are called Little Free Libraries and they’re aimed at promoting community and literacy around the city. The project started in Wisconsin in 2009, and by the beginning of 2014 there were nearly 15,000 around the world—and that number keeps growing. With these, the take-a-book, return-a-book motto is king.

Starting August 1, you have the chance to design your own Little Free Library as part of the 2014 Seattle Design Festival’s Libraries on the Loose Design/Build Competition. LFLs will be built and installed on a site of your choice (typically the home of a participant—and yes, already existing libraries can also be submitted). Register by August 1, submit your design by the August 27, and your library will be exhibited at the Seattle Design Festival Block Party (9/6-9/7) and at the fest's conference (9/13-9/14). My overflowing bookshelves thank you in advance.

Submission requirements include a scale model of the project, 24 x 36 presentation board and assembly video and instructions. Judges ask that you limit material costs to $150, since affordability is a key component in the design concept; beyond that, they’re looking for creativity, ease of construction and use, and adaptability. Cost to participate ranges from free (if you’re under 18 or a community group) to $200 for firms and businesses with over 10 employees. Grand prize winners will be announced on September 6 and People’s Choice awards on September 14. Find more info about the submission process, go here and let your creativity soar.

Not into DIY? Go check out the prototypes anyway and perhaps immerse yourself in even more swoon-worthy design: The Seattle Design Festival has an impressive line-up of additional events from September 5-19 around the city, including films, tours, workshops and gatherings where you can exchange ideas (designinpublic.org). Or if you like the idea of the Little Free Library but—like me—lack the wherewithal to actually design and build one of your own from scratch, you can purchase an already-constructed LFL or a very doable Neighborhood Building Party Kit at littlefreelibrary.org (prices range from $175-$1,000).

And make sure to go on a scavenger hunt for one of these mini book holders in your own neighborhood: despite the prevalence of e-readers, there’s still nothing like the feel of turning pages in an actual, printed and bound book. Sorry not sorry, Kindle.