Lending Libraries

I love ‘em! More than that, lending libraries provide a great excuse for introverted readers to get outdoors. I enjoy walking as exercise, especially outside during such a lovely summer. But when you spend an hour and a half of your weekdays walking around the same town, you get bored faster than you get fit. The best way to exercise is to give yourself a goal.


So when I walk, I find as many lending libraries as I can. For the uninformed, here’s how they work. A lending library looks like a little house on a post. They’re often found in front lawns. Inside those little houses, you’ll find various books of unpredictable quality. The policy is simple: if you take a book, you must leave a book. It’s the perfect way for you to clean out your old books without stress, and to find new books without money. It is acceptable for you to take out a Margaret Atwood novel and replace it with a children’s picture book (but if you do, you’re probably the type who puts a basket of those complimentary saltine crackers in your purse).


Each time I found a lending library in my hometown (or in Iowa), I took a picture. 3 months and 15 lost pounds later, here are some of the best!



This library is closest to my house, and closest to the actual town library, which makes it somewhat redundant. It has a fair amount of YA novels to balance out the classic books inside, put there by people who finally faced up and admitted that nobody will ask them how much Jane Austen they’ve read. I like the theme and colors for this box. Although, for me, the idea that anyone can be president isn’t as hopeful as it used to be…


This library jumps out at you… if you walk east down the street. Don’t go west. Notice the multiple dividers. This is useful, because books come in the weirdest shapes and sizes. Imagine if your DVDs were 100 micrometers thick for each minute of film. Now that Hobbit Extended Edition impulse buy don’t seem so smart, huh?


This design is a little boring. But hey, reading isn’t the most exciting of hobbies. I wasn’t kidding about the children’s picture books, as you can tell with a closer look.


This is a haunted lending library. If you open its door, then a scary man comes out to tell you all his strong opinions on Ernest Cline.


Well whaddayaknow, this library has the instructions right on it! That’s helpful to have. A few years ago, my town placed several lending libraries on their main street for a summer. It was fun for a while, but after a month most of the books had disappeared. Or got replaced with ratty cookbooks. This is why companies put directions on shampoo— so stingy/dumb people don’t try pouring it into their gas tanks.


This one has a cute lantern! It also has a calculus textbook in it. Is it worth mentioning that this library stands right across from a grade school? Math gets tougher each passing year, it seems.


If you design your own lending library, then you should have your door obscure some of your titles. That way, there’s incentive for the passerby to open up and see what they find. Notice the “little” on the top of the box, as if to warn its finders “There’s little of literary value inside.”


Probably the best selection I found in a lending library. Most of these poorly-designed bird homes have the hot items of 5-years ago inside, in addition to poorly received assigned reading and chapter books your kid outgrew. Could you imagine finding something as good as The Martian there, among other choice selections? (note: you can no longer find The Martian there, because now it is mine. Enjoy your local author vanity project replacement!)


Exquisite doggo, blop, h*ckin’ dapper suit, that fluffer boi painted on top of the box knows how to preorder from a local indie author. 12/10. May actually be a cat.


It’s a good idea to limit at least some lending libraries for kids. But if you open the wrong book, you’ll unleash the angry “out-of-shape nerd who wants to give Percy Jackson another try” spirit!


That note on the bottom is how you go from “nice reminder” to “insufferably cutesy.” It’s probably from the type of book-lover who tweets the logo of Reading Rainbow with a #pride attached. Again, this library’s hard to find and harder to revisit, due to its placing in the shade and its facing away from its nearby corner. That might be the best way to keep cheapskates (like me!) from abusing it.


What are the lending libraries in your neighborhood like? If you got pictures, let’s compare! Mine, of course, will be better.


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