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Blindur er bóklaus maður.
Blind is the man without books.

Icelandic Proverb

Take a Book, Leave a Book: But Better

We’re all familiar with the prototypical “take a book, leave a book” system, the well-intentioned but probably neglected shelf where moldering copies of unread magazines, out-of-date how-to manuals, esoteric textbooks, and, occasionally, a single beloved novel gather dust—unread and unnoticed in coffee rooms and common areas the whole world over. Now, imagine instead a thoughtfully curated, well-maintained, and well-used book depository. A publicly accessible, aesthetically pleasing mini-library, designed with a specific community of readers in mind.?

The Little Free Library project takes the basic “take a book, leave a book” concept and turns it into both a literacy initiative and a community-building venture. This project began with one Little Free Library in Wisconsin in the United States, but has now become an international network, with somewhere between 5,000 - 6,000 branches in 36 countries all over the world. As of yet, however, there are no Little Free Library branches in Iceland, and this is what, with your help, I hope to change.

Reykjavík: A Literary City

Literature is an integral element of cultural life in Iceland, a fact that is reflected in the yearly jólabókaflóð, or Christmas book flood, when vast quantities of new books are published and become the topic of eager and heated conversation throughout the country. It is reflected in Reykjavík’s 2011 designation as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011—one of only five cities in the world to be so honored, and the only one in which English is not the native tongue. It is reflected in the frequent claim that “everyone in Iceland is an author,” and the incredible fact that this very small country (population 320,000) is thought to publish more books per capita than any other country in the world. For more information about literary life in Reykjavík, check out: “Ten Things To Know About the Literary City.” 

Little Free Library, Reykjavík

Reykjavík is a perfect city for a Little Free Library, and in a spirit of transnational collaboration and multilingualism, LFLR will be a multilingual branch filled primarily with Icelandic and American literature. Books in the collection will represent a wide variety of genres and reading interests, including narrative fiction, crime novels, science fiction, comic books, picture books, and even audio books. The collection is being curated by librarians, literary organizations, academics, publishers, book store owners, and avid readers with an interest in Icelandic literature.

The library structure itself will be built (by me!) using one of the Amish Shed Kits sold by Little Free Library, resulting in a beautiful, weather-proof structure (very important in wet and windy Reykjavík) which will contain somewhere between 2-3 dozen books. It’s worth noting that the shed itself will be made from recycled materials of a particularly fascinating provenance: the wood used in these library kits is from an American barn that was leveled by a tornado nearly 100 years ago!

The final location of Little Free Library, Reykjavík has yet to be determined, but I am delighted to be working with the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature office to find a central location for the library. The library will be placed either along one of Reykjavík’s Literary Walks or near one of the forthcoming Literary Markers–highlighted spots around the city which have literary significance. Wherever LFLR is placed, it will be included on the City of Literature’s literary map and will be easily and readily accessible to members of the public, be they longtime Reykjavík residents, university students, or even tourists eager to sample a great piece of Icelandic literature while they are in town. (Just bring back the books!)

I will be the library’s “steward” for the duration of my time in Reykjavík, but will place it under the care of other library-loving individuals when necessary.

Should this project be successful, I would love to build other Little Free Libraries all around the country. Any donations that exceed the fundraising total will be set aside for future Little Free Libraries in Iceland.

Get In Touch, or Get Involved!

For more information, answers to FAQs, and updates about the planning process, please see the Little Free Library Reykjavík website, here: or “like” us on Facebook:

And again, this is intended to be a community project (spanning oceans!), so if you have suggestions, carpentry expertise/tools that can be borrowed, or would otherwise like to be involved, please contact me via the LFLR website. 

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Larissa Larissa
The library’s steward

The Little Free Library project takes the basic “take a book, leave a book” concept and turns it into both a literacy initiative and a community-building venture.