Little Free Libraries Come to Cambridge


Allison Korn

Pictured: A Little Free Library on the streets of Cambridge.

Lou Targoff, Contributing Writer

Little Free Libraries (LFR) are small and often homemade book storage areas that hold books for any passerby to take at no cost. Those who pass by can also put a book into the library. Organized by the nonprofit organization Little Free Libraries, there are over 10,000 LFRs throughout 108 different countries. In Cambridge alone, there are 25 LFRs, scattered all over the city on front yards, local sidewalks, and public spaces. “People want symbols of being part of the community and things that they can experience as a part of a community, and I think that’s what the little library does,” Cambridge resident and Little Free Library owner Ed Cyr said. 

City Council member Patty Nolan is also a stewardess of her own LFR, and after being motivated to join in on what she considered to be a great movement, she found the experience was even more rewarding than she predicted: “What surprises me is the wonderful interaction with the community that I don’t know,” Patty remarked, “It really makes me feel good to be able to host this community resource.”

In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Patty has found that the library can be used for those who don’t have the luxury to go buy a book since the public libraries are not fully open. She also addressed a common misconception that users are supposed to put back or replace books they take, noting that the library is for the public’s use and, “whatever book you take out is yours.” 

People want symbols of being part of the community and things that they can experience as a part of a community, and I think that’s what the little library does.

— Ed Cyr

Not only are these libraries rewarding for the stewards and stewardesses, but the users themselves have access to an excellent resource. While sitting on his porch and watching neighbors stop at the library, Cyr enjoys “the real excitement people have about it.” Cyr also believes the LFR themselves play an important role in the community: “It’s like the playground where everybody brings their kids after dinner and you meet people. It’s those little things that make a neighborhood, and this is just one little bit to it.” 

John Kelleher, another Cambridge LFR steward, had always loved the idea of a LFR. After deciding to build one himself, he had one moment that was unusually special: “The most memorable [moment was] a neighbor that came to the library because she could no longer make the walk to the ‘real’ library. She was very thankful.” John wrote to the Register Forum

The libraries do not lack users. According to Cyr there are around ten people who stop at the libraries per hour. One reason for this could be the diverse selection of books that reflect each neighborhood. Cyr notices there are often books about child care and healthcare, which can be attributed to the abundance of new parents in his neighborhood. Other times food, or even pregnancy tests can be found in the libraries, giving the libraries a very practical purpose.

The lure of the library is something that passersby often can’t withstand. Cyr’s two-year-old is included in this. “She just always wants to go to the library, and I think it means the public library but no, it means the little library” Most importantly, Cyr said,  “I think it makes people feel at home.”