Books Around the Block in St. Paul

“Thank you to the Saint Paul Realtors®, you are spot on in adding this to the neighborhood…it fits right into our neighborhood initiative of doing unusual and interesting things, and is a great way to bring the community together.”  Mayor Stan Karwoski, Oakdale, Minnesota

Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over!  The “take a book, leave a book” movement promotes literacy, recycling and placemaking efforts.  REALTORS® from the Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS® (SPAAR) seized this opportunity to enhance placemaking efforts in the Saint Paul area.

SPAAR’s Books Around the Block project installed Little Free Libraries in three communities in our service area.  This project was a partnership between SPAAR and the Young Professionals Network of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC).  Within SPAAR, the project was led by REALTOR® members and our Community Engagement Committee.

Libraries have been located in Oakdale, Apple Valley and Anoka, Minnesota.  The project was designed to incorporate projects in a range of the communities where SPAAR’s members do business.  Each library reflects the community and area where it is located.

Oakdale’s library is near a new townhome development.  It was designed to reflect the Prairie School lines of the townhomes in the community.

Cardinal Place Little Free Library, Oakdale, MN

Cardinal Place Little Free Library, Oakdale, MN

The Apple Valley library, painted a bright apple red, is near a busy city park, senior center and hockey arena.

Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland at Ribbon Cutting

Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland at Ribbon Cutting

Anoka’s library faces a city street, and is adjacent to a school, park and senior community.  The Anoka library was designed to look like a cottage from a fairy tale—it has a whimsical, curving “thatched” roof.

Fairy Tale Cottage Library in Anoka, MN

Fairy Tale Cottage Library in Anoka, MN

All of the locations are accessible to the public and feature a range of books to suit readers of all ages.  Seating is available at or nearby each location.  And each library also incorporated enhanced landscaping.

The Little Free Libraries were built by students from a Construction Skills Class at Dunwoody Technical Institute.  SPAAR members enlisted the help of community partners to serve as stewards—a Girl Scout Troop, Rotary Builders Club and AVID Program from an area high school.  These stewards will periodically check on the libraries and restock books.  Books for stocking each library are collected by SPAAR’s REALTOR® members.

The Libraries were registered with Little Free Libraries.  Registered libraries are located on an interactive map.  Visitors to the library can use the map and website ( to record comments or to communicate with the library’s steward about maintenance issues.  This registration, identified by a serial number and plaque attached to each library, shows that the library is part of a national effort to promote literacy and build communities.


After installation, each of the libraries was presented to the city.  REALTORS® appeared at City Council meetings to request the Councils to receive the libraries, or to recognize them as city amenities.  This was a great opportunity for SPAAR’s members, and produced lots of positive publicity.  The libraries were also presented to the community with public ribbon cutting events that featured remarks from elected officials and root beer floats.

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SPAAR has received lots of positive feedback from Books Around the Block.  We have received suggestions from members for additional communities and locations where additional Little Libraries would be welcome.  A second phase of the project is planned for 2017.


  1. That is a really brilliant project driven by the neighbourhood initiative. We ourselves were faced with the challenges of using placemaking principles to convert an old space in Shoreditch into an open office space in London – we also created a corner which had books (a range of them) for any coworker to take and read at their own will. Nice read, cheers.