little free library design competition

2017 Little Free Library Design Competition

Submission: September 01, 2017
Registration: September 01, 2017
Language: English
Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
Prizes: Please see details below
Type: Open


This is an Open, Two-stage, Design Competition to design, construct, and install a contemporary book shelter in underprivileged neighborhoods in Buffalo, NY.


Children from middle income homes have, on average, 13 books per child. Conversely, it is estimated that there is only 1 book for every 300 children in low income neighborhoods and up to 61% of these families do not have any books for their kids at home [Children’s Literacy Foundation]. Perhaps the most fundamental problem with current literacy campaigns is that they ignore, and even divert attention from, the real problem: lack of access to books for children of poverty.
The Little Free Libraries movement places small-scale book shelters in neighborhoods and is based on the premise of “take a book, leave a book.” Established in 2009, there are now over 50,000 Little Free Libraries in communities worldwide. Initially crafted to resemble miniature one-room schoolhouses mounted on a pole, these libraries have become unique structures, designed and constructed in a wide range of styles, often utilizing recycled, reclaimed, or salvaged materials.
Libraries can be shelters for people, as well as books. Children, especially, rely on libraries as a safe destination outside of home or school. The presence of a neighborhood library gives our smaller residents a destination and means of connection; a gathering place in an urban environment that can be otherwise unfriendly to children. A Little Free Library should serve as an anchor for the community.


Design/Build entrants will be responsible for all design, material selection, and fabrication of one Little Free Library® within the defined schedule. Multiple design concepts from a single entrant will first be judged against each other to select the strongest and then against other entries to maintain as diverse an inventory of libraries as possible. This does not preclude a situation wherein a multiple entrant may be asked to make more than one library, however, each entrant with multiple designs should indicate their ability to fabricate more than one library within the timeframe given.


Traditional, custom-built, high quality, prefinished libraries are available for purchase (as a fundraiser) from the Little Free Library® organization within a price range of $300 to $500; unfinished or some assembly required libraries are available for as little as $165. Entrants are asked to include an estimate of the total cost of their designs with a target budget of $300. Buffalo Architecture Foundation is hoping to select and install up to 10 designs, so the more cost efficient the design can be, the more libraries we can afford to install. As additional funding becomes available this value may increase.



Entry Fees are non-refundable and tax deductible to the greatest extent allowed by law.  All fees will be used to defray the costs of the building materials and any proceeds (less incidental administrative costs) will be donated to the Buffalo Architecture Foundation in support of their Service and Educational Programs.  If not submitting online, please make checks or money orders payable to the Buffalo Architecture Foundation.


Each design team will receive $300 to build and install its library.


BAF intends for each library to be a permanent installation.

BAF will publish regular updates on the competition via email, on their website, on Facebook and Twitter, and to local press.  Whenever possible, participants will be referenced by name and any provided images will be shared.

Buffalo Architecture Foundation, in conjunction with competition sponsors, will invite entrants to a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at one of the installed libraries.  BAF intends to promote this event with local press and will thank all parties involved in its success including all selected entrants.

A commemorative photo book including written descriptions of each library, photos of the design and construction process, along with the installed finished product will be made available for sale during and following the event.  Entrants may pre-order a book at a reduced price with entry submission.


Competition Opens:  June 5, 2017
Submissions Due:  September 1, 2017
Winners Notified:  October 1, 2017
Design Duration (3 months):  October 2017 thru December 2018
Construction Duration (4 months):  January 2017 thru April 2018
Installation:  Any time after completion but no later than May 1, 2018
Ribbon Cutting:  Late May/early June 2018

Go to the competition’s website