When a 36-year-old bibliophile in Daegu, South Korea, sat down at his computer and googled the word “library,” he didn’t expect to find anything particularly noteworthy. But as DooSun You scrolled through the results, an appealingly anti-tech concept popped up.
The Internet led him to Little Free Libraries—hand-built boxes where neighbors can trade novels, memoirs, comics, and cookbooks, and connect with each other in the process.
The little libraries immediately appealed to DooSun. “Reading books is one of the most valuable things in my life. I think a book is equal to a treasure,” he says. “I hoped to share that feeling with my neighbors—that’s the reason I wanted a Little Free Library.” The website showed pictures of the diminutive structures standing in front yards, on city curbs, and alongside country roads all over the world, along with their GPS locations. “The Little Free Library map was a treasure map,” he says.
Soon after his online discovery, DooSun built a Little Free Library—the first one in South Korea—in front of his apartment building. Then he built a second at a different spot. Then a third. Slowly, his “take a book, return a book” libraries began bringing people together, garnering book donations and handwritten notes of thanks from strangers. He now pastes a QR code on the front of each library, so passersby can use their smartphones to learn more about them, and he regularly exchanges emails with others who want to build their own. He recently started a Facebook group where other Little Free Library stewards throughout Asia can swap ideas and experiences—as easily as visitors to their libraries swap physical books.