Little Free Library

Photo: Paul VanDerWerf/Flickr

Have you noticed a cute miniature library like the one above pop up in your neighborhood recently? You may or may not know that these adorable Little Free Libraries are part of a larger social movement that got its start in 2009 after a collaboration between a pair of Wisconsin-based DIY do-gooders and reading enthusiasts.

The movement takes a page from the vision of 19th century industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who spearheaded a push to build free public libraries all across America at the turn of the century.

After surpassing their original goal of erecting 2,509 libraries (the same number that Carnegie built during his philanthropic public library spree), the trend continues to balloon in size. As of 2014, there are more than 15,000 (and counting!) of these dimunitive book nooks in at least 15 countries.

At its root, creating one of these amazing libraries is simple. Simply build (or upcycle!) a water-tight structure, place it in a publicly accessible location, add a few of books you'd like to rehome and then watch the books fly off (and back on) the shelves. To ensure the library is always stocked, a "take a book, leave a book" honor system is encouraged.

Of course, there are plenty of custodians who go above and beyond to make their tiny pop-up libraries stand out. After all, these structures aren't just about education — they're also about community and the arts! Here are just a few ultra-creative library designs that might inspire you to pick up a book.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.