I always thought they were kind of cute, but a Toronto librarian makes a strong case to the contrary.
“[Little Free Libraries] are a highly visible form of self-gratification cleverly disguised as book aid, and the effects of this visibility can be better understood through a consideration of their role in a landscape . . .”
This kind of “branded philanthropy” serves as a vehicle for virtue-signaling by the homeowners who install Little Free Libraries in their front yards, Schmidt and Hale say. They’re particularly ubiquitous in hyper-educated, affluent, crunchy blue enclaves across the country—your Ithacas, Berkeleys, and Takoma Parks, where residents tend to wear their shabby progressivism on their sleeves. But the Little Librariest neighborhoods may be tucked away in the Midwest, where the movement got its start.
As pointed out earlier in the piece,
““There was something that kind of irked me about the title,” says Jane Schmidt, librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto. “As a librarian, my gut reaction to that was, ‘You know what else is a free library? A regular library.’”
The big free library in Somerville, MA