Independence Little Free Libraries

lfl in park

What are Little Free Libraries?

Little Free Libraries (LFLs) are free book exchanges in all sizes, shapes, and colors…though most of them are wooden and look like a miniature home or school.  Little Free Libraries started in 2009 in Wisconsin when Todd Bol built a little wooden library and installed it in his front yard with a sign that read, “Free Books.” Now there are more than 50,000 of them in all fifty states and over seventy countries worldwide.

And, there are eight of them in parks and public areas in Independence These free book exchanges are available on the “take a book, return a book” honor system. You can take a book, read it and pass it along to a friend or neighbor, return the book to a Little Free Library (it doesn’t have to be the same one, or even one in Independence), and/or you can donate a book by bringing one that you would like to share. The idea is to get people reading and talking!
oakview lfl
5ward park LFL
Steve & Laura LFL

Why have Little Free Libraries?

There are many benefits to the Little Free Libraries.  The vision of the Little Free Libraries, now a non-profit corporation, is “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” 

The obvious promotion of literacy and reading is coupled with the benefit of being an informal meeting location that brings people and neighborhoods together.  The libraries are also an incentive to get outside and walk, a healthy perk for everyone.

Painting LFL
Installing mustang lfl

How did Independence get Little Free Libraries?

A committee worked on the idea of bringing several Little Free Libraries to public parks and trails in Independence.  Helen Lukes, ICSD teacher; Janet Buls with the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging; Steve Russell with the Buchanan County Arts; and Laura Blaker, Independence Public Library Director; joined forces to bring them to our community.

Thanks to help from the Hotel/Motel Tax Grant, the Friends of the Library, a memorial in honor of Mary Ellen Earles, private donations, the City, Parks and Recreation, Greenley Lumber, and Spahn and Rose; the LFLs are now a reality.


Where can I see the Little Free Libraries, and who designed them?

To involve more helping hands and to get the community interested in the project, the library held workshops for painting the libraries and putting them together. There was a great turnout for both of the workshops, and the group is thankful for all the willing volunteers.

    Campground LFL
    Mill LFL
    Riverwalk LFL
    Following the workshops, several artists from the Buchanan County Arts put their time and talents into making the Little Free Libraries into unique works of art! See the map, list of locations, and artist information below:
    map lfl 2017

    1. River Walk Park has an LFL on the trail close to the playground equipment.  It has a fun, tropical fish and was designed by Pam Russell.
    2. 5th Ward Park LFL is located in the SE corner of the diagonal walk and features charming book designs by Kara Vance.
    3. Liberty Park LFL, across from the Mill, is a stunning replica of the Mill designed by Steve Russell.
    4. 1st St East LFL is in front of the Oak View Retirement Community and the oak leaves and acorns carrying through the retirement center theme were created by Denny Vance.
    5. Trotter/Liberty Trail (currently out of commission)  LFL is located east of the football field at the intersection of the two trails. It was painted in Mustang colors and has the Mustang logo along with a cupola.
    6. The 3rd Ward Park’s library is on the northeast corner on the diagonal sidewalk and is done in tan and green to compliment the natural setting and the playground equipment.
    7. The RV Park and Campground’s LFL is located on the walking trail within the campground, and it has a whimsical tree design created by John Decker.
    8. Triangle Park boasts a yellow LFL with a lovely white picket fence and flowers painted by Vicki Pilcher. It is located on the east side of the trail and pond.
    Triangle Park LFL
    LFL 3rd Ward

    Who is taking care of them?

    There is a steward, or caretaker, for each of the libraries. The idea is for the steward to be the main caretaker, but for the community to also help take care of it and keep their eye on it. We hope that each Little Free Library neighborhood will have people willing to watch out for the libraries so they can continue to be there for everyone to enjoy.

    Friends of the Library have generously set aside some of their books for the Little Free Libraries so stewards aren’t responsible for coming up with all of the books themselves. Many teachers, the PTO, and individuals have also donated books to the Little Free Libraries.
     The Independence Public Library (IPL) is the coordinator for the Little Free Libraries, and each library has a sign with contact information as well as a QR Code which can be scanned to take you directly to this webpage!

    Find out more:

    If you are interested in finding out more about Little Free Libraries, you can go to their website at The Independence LFLs will be added to the worldwide map soon. You can also check out the worldwide map plus a lot of interesting libraries, stories, and tips at their site.


    Call 319-334-2470, email, or stop at the library with any questions or concerns about Independence's Little Free Libraries.