“We are a ‘book family,’ and we always have a stack of books to pass along,” writes Brett Barry, an audio producer who built one library from reclaimed building supplies in the Catskills region of New York in 2015, in an email to Quartz. His daughter helped paint it. “It’s always fun to see a car pull to the side of the road to discover the library and browse the books inside,” he adds.

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Seeing—if not actually using—the Little Free Library is a romantic reminder of the simple pleasure of swapping a book with a stranger. A cross between world-weary pages stacked on a shelf in a hostel, and the little thrill of realizing a book you want to read is available for free, it’s a physical manifestation of book-loving neighborliness. The notebooks kept in some libraries—catalogs of people’s borrowings and their notes of enthusiasm—remind one of the pencil-scribbled smiley faces in hiking trail register books, physical mementos of transience and global movement.

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