Using the Little Free Library to Promote the Big Free Library

Two of the most important questions to ask in traditional marketing are these:

What wants or needs do I meet?
Where else are people currently meeting those wants or needs?** 

For now, let's answer the first question in the simplest way possible: free books. Libraries offer far more than free books, but we can agree that this is the most common and recognizable use case. Reframing the second question, then, where else are people currently accessing free books? 

The most common place could be your local Little Free Library. Something like a birdhouse for books, a Little Free Library is a small wooden enclosure with 1-2 shelves of books inside. Usually, these books are originally stocked by a private individual known as a steward and then maintained in a "take one, leave one" model. Civic organizations such as churches and boy scout troops may also be stewards. For a list of registered LFLs in your area, check this handy map.

Little Free Libraries attract the exact population that you want to bring to the library: those who are both intellectually curious and community-minded. By design, though, they have a limited and sporadic stock of books. Often, a person walks up to the box, quickly browses the shelves, and discovers that nothing suits his or her taste. What better moment could there be to remind that person of the public library? In marketing speak, here is a person in your target audience who has expressed intent to use a product that you offer.

Here are three ways you can market your public library using a Little Free Library:

1) Add your information to the shelf

Most Little Free Libraries are maintained by people who love public libraries. In fact, of the 17 in our area, 2 are maintained by retired librarians. Ask for their permission to include some materials from the public library in their LFL. 

2) Donate books from your withdrawn items

You might also recruit the person in charge of withdrawing items from your collection. Ask them to cherry-pick titles to donate to Little Free Libraries and place some specially-designed stickers or bookmarks inside. 

Note: a particularly friendly steward might let you put these in all the books within their LFL.

**Notes on measuring effectiveness: give away something small if they bring the bookmark when they sign up for a library card

3) Build your own


Note that the ideas expressed here don't just apply to Little Free Libraries. Coffee shops, churches, and retirement communities also have the same sort of small lending library. If you see success with your LFL campaign, consider extending it to these locations as well. Did you find these recommendations helpful?

Do you have a Little Free Library success story to share? Let us know in the comments!

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Enter to win the Summer Search Giveaway!


**The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

What’s the Koios Summer Search Marketing Giveaway?

It’s summertime, and that means that your community is looking for things to do. Koios helps libraries show up online, and this summer we want to help you get the word out about summer reading, book clubs, concerts, and more. To do that, we’re giving away $2500 in search engine marketing from now until July 4th.

What do I win?

Have you ever wanted to see your great program at the top of search results? Ten libraries will receive a prize pack of Google marketing worth $250: that’s enough to have your program seen by over 2,000 interested residents!

How does it work?

  1. You choose a program or service to promote

  2. Koios creates a Google search campaign for it

  3. Residents see it in relevant search results for 2-4 weeks

  4. You get new library fans for free!

 How do I enter?

Enter up to six times between now and July 4th by:

What are the rules?

  • To win, you must be affiliated with a public library in the U.S., U.K., or Canada.

  • Multiple librarians from the same library may enter to increase their chances.

  • The contest will end on July 5th, 2017.

  • Winners will be notified personally by Twitter or email, and collectively in a press release.

  • The prize package must be used to promote library resources to the local community.

  • The prize package must be used by December 31st, 2017.

  • The prize package cannot be transferred or sold.

  • Media and documents created in the course of implementation are the joint property of Koios and the winning library, meaning both Koios and the library may reuse them afterwards without the need for permission from the other party.

  • Koios may add to or change these rules as necessary in the interest of fairness and fun.


Koios CEO interviewed on Eastern Foundry's "Students v. Startups" Podcast

Image courtesy of Eastern Foundry

Image courtesy of Eastern Foundry

Koios CEO Trey Gordner answered tough questions from Georgetown students last week in a rapid-fire interview. The exchange is part of a partnership between Georgetown University and Eastern Foundry, a collaborative workspace that offers government contractors the insight and resources they need to succeed in the federal market. Questions ranged from product and business strategy to why libraries carry so many romance novels (hint: they're popular). Here's one quote that summarizes the Koios advantage for collection development:

What we want to do is empower librarians to develop their collections in a way that’s not just on intuition—even though that’s quite good among collection development librarians—but that they have data to reinforce those decisions.
— Trey Gordner, Koios CEO

You can find the full 12-minute segment on Eastern Foundry's blog.

If you're a librarian who's eager to "take the fight to Amazon," as Trey puts it, get in touch at
If you'd like to download Koios and never forget to borrow instead of buy, head to our Download Page.