Little Leeds Library: A Garden In Your Pocket

Words and Photos: Carry Franklin @leedslittlefreelibrary

There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘a book is a garden in your pocket’. It is also, I have recently discovered, a way of tying invisible threads between a community.

The idea of the little free library is simple; a painted weather-proof cabinet in a public place that works as a book exchange. Anyone who passes by can just take a book – or if they want, leave a book.


There is no need to return them and no monetary transaction involved. The system is totally fluid. There is a little notebook in the library for people to write comments – share a recommendation for the book they have left or just a note for other passers-by.

The idea isn’t an original one. There are little libraries all over the world – I first saw one in London and fell in love with the idea. What I didn’t anticipate was how our little library would impact on our own community of Headingley and Meanwood.

The first week was incredible. I kept wishing that I had set up a camera to capture the faces of passers-by as they first came across it by the side of the road – the curiosity, followed by slight apprehension at approaching something so public, and then the joy of opening the box and the revelation; the treasure of books to share.

The comments in our little notebook have reflected the collective feelings of delight and something deeper. ‘Thank you, what a wonderful thing. It has restored my faith in humanity’ wrote Tom. And then there was the note from the postman that simply said ‘Great idea, love it! The Postman’. I’ve lived in our house for several years and we have always had the same postman.

The following week when he rang the doorbell to deliver a parcel, he told me about his two daughters and the books he had taken for them from the little library and the ones he had brought back the following day. And for the first time, the postman became a real person – a connection was made.

It was the overwhelming response from the community that made me think that I wanted to make more – in fact, I want there to be Little Free Libraries in every community in Leeds. I want them to be a feature of our city – beautifully painted cabinets of joy that encourage the best part of us all to not only read, but to share with each other, to respect and take pride in the neighbourhood and city we live in.

Recently, we have gratefully accepted a grant from Leeds Inspired to build three more libraries in Bramley, Farsley and Belle Isle. We have also received commissions for Little Free Libraries in school playgrounds to encourage parents and children to share the fun and possibility of books together.

We plan to decorate these by blending the children’s artwork with our own. Eventually we would like to create workshops to enable communities to build their own Leeds Little Free Library.

Everyone can be part of our story.

Iberica La Bodega