Canadian Woodworking

Little Libraries Opening Doors in Peterborough

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Rob Brown
Published: August September 2016
little library
little library

The Rotary Club of Peterborough-Kawartha has recently opened 25 new little libraries across Peterborough to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Learn about what it took to start a project like this, and how you can do something similar.


The Rotary Club of Peterborough-Kawartha recently completed their goal of building and installing 25 little libraries in the Peterborough area. The club has always focused on liter­acy in the community, and this project is no different. Their main goal was to strengthen community ties with the help of books, and the collection of art­fully decorated little libraries has done just that.

A Big Thanks
When The Rotary Club of Peterborough-Kawartha completed their goal of 25 little libraries they posted small signs on each library post thanking all the groups who participated.

little library

Different Design, Same Great Purpose
Though not part of The Rotary Club’s 25 little libraries, this Peterborough-based little library was registered with Little Free Library, and now has a sign, with registration number, above the door.

little library

As with all little libraries, these small, simple structures resemble one-room schoolhouses from times past; they’re just large enough to house a few dozen books or magazines, but are small enough to be easily built. The libraries were built by Fleming College students in the Carpentry Techniques Program, and were painted by local high school students. When you factor in the support of local businesses – Nefab and Merrett Home Hardware both pitched in with this project – you realize how it really was a team effort.

“I’ve seen these little gems popping up all over the place,” said Peterborough resident Alison McElwain, as she reached for a novel from one of the 25 little libraries near her home. “Even in the cold weather my kids want to walk down the street to see what they’ll find,” she continued. “There’s always something new, and we often meet other kids and families while we’re out.”

Canada and abroad

All of these 25 libraries are registered with Little Free Library, an American organization that has popularized building small libraries and freely sharing books with anyone who walks by. In order to use the name “Little Free Library” your little library must be registered with the organization. The cost to do so is around US $50, depending on the type of sign you would like. By registering you receive a charter sign and number, as well as some support literature. If you don’t plan to use the name, or need a sign, it’s not necessary to register your library with this organization. There are over 36,000 registered Free Little Libraries across the world. You can learn more at

Construction tips

If you plan on building your own little library there are a few things you should keep in mind, as you don’t want your gor­geous community library to turn into an eyesore a few years down the road. First, build it to last. These structures are going to be outdoors, and in Canada this means they’ll be up against a little bit of everything. Properly select wood that will stand up to the elements and use strong, lasting construction meth­ods. Second, ensure the finish on your library is always in good condition. Cracked paint or caulking doesn’t keep the weather out, and allows the library to deteriorate quickly. To protect against getting the books wet and ruining them, do your best to design your library to shed water. Also, a clear, easily read sign is a must. People aren’t expecting a library, so a sign will quickly let them know what they happened to stumble upon. Another thing to consider is your hardware; use exterior hardware that will not only function, but will look good over the years. Lastly, either put the mounting post inside a deep hole or use a strong, stable base to support the library.

As an extra bonus, feel free to design a library that will look great. Not all little libraries need to look exactly the same. A bit of design flair and attention to detail will help your library stand out and look great.

Something else you might want to do when building a library for your front lawn is to canvas your neighbours and ask them if they want to help out. When people have time and energy invested in a project they tend to do more to ensure it succeeds, and there’s nothing quite like having an extra few sets of hands, along with some great ideas, to help out with getting this community project off the ground. After all, that’s exactly what the Rotary Club of Peterborough-Kawartha did, and look at the success they had.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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