The small free libraries of Santa Barbara

The small free libraries of Santa Barbara

Find your next great read in your own neighborhood

By Ellie Bouwer | July 13, 2022

Summer Reading Main Page

What better way to dive into summer reading than with free books? There are 150,000 small free libraries worldwide, sharing more than 70 million books each year, including at least 70 registered libraries in the greater Santa Barbara area. These small libraries operate on an honor system, giving free access to books for everyone. They’re also a great way for neighbors to share books and connect about literature.

Here are some of the best small free libraries in the Santa Barbara area. For more information and to download a free app that includes a map, visit littlefreelibrary.org.

Little bird library

Credit: Ellie Bouwer

570 Carlo Drive, Goleta, CA 93117 | Charter # 136078

The Little Bird bookcase is cute, functional and accessible. It’s modeled after a classic birdhouse, with a little red canary on top and solar string lights strung around the box. The books are primarily mysteries and spiritual well-being books, as well as a few children’s books in Spanish and English. It’s also just a short walk to Stow Canyon Open Space, a small park with shade and seating where you can bring your new books for outdoor reading.

Ms. Marzak’s Sunflower LFL

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439 Valdez Avenue, Goleta, CA 93117 | Charter # 124906

Perfect for kids of all ages, this library sits on a gravel path with a comfy bench and a tree providing shade. The library itself, painted with sunflowers on the sides, is separated into four different sections according to age – there are books for everyone, from toddlers to young adults, in Spanish and English. There is hand sanitizer inside the library, the area is quiet, and there is plenty of street parking nearby.

Shaded oak bookcase

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3308 Calle Fresno, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | Charter # 103447

In a beautiful shaded glade off San Roque Road, Shady Oak LFL is easily the largest library on this list. There are books of all genres and this library is a vibrant place for the community – be prepared to meet other book lovers when you visit. There is plenty of parking nearby and Stevens Park is just a short walk away for those who like to read in nature.

Ministry of Magic LFL

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302 Santa Anita Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | Charter # 31064

The Ministry of Magic LFL has a creative Harry Potter themed design. There’s plenty of shade on the sidewalk next to the library, as well as a nearby free produce box offering fresh fruits and vegetables. The neighborhood is beautiful and peaceful, but doesn’t offer much street parking nearby. The books inside are a well-curated mix of thrillers, mystery, and fantasy.

Nanny’s Children’s Library

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2010 Chino Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | Charter # 135590

Nanny’s Kids LFL offers a small, bright and colorful library for local children. The neighborhood has street parking available. The library has a small collection of children’s books in Spanish and English, but needs donations. Unfortunately, the library is too high for very young children to reach on their own, but it is otherwise easily accessible.

Pueblo Street Library

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23 East Pueblo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | Charter # 104506

This is a wonderful little oasis in Upper East Santa Barbara. The library is overlooked by beautiful greenery, and there is a shaded seat to sit and read. The library is large and very comprehensive, offering a huge range of different genres, there really is something for everyone – Spanish and English toddler books, YA fiction novels, magazines, comics, etc. There is also a neighborhood comment book where community members can request books or leave comments, and plenty of street parking nearby.

Planter on top

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1813 Castillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | Charter # 117624

This LFL on Castillo Street is a well-decorated asymmetrical box with a planter and an owl figurine on top. It is easily accessible from the street, although it does not offer seating or shade. The books inside are clean and organized, mostly comprised of lifestyle, comedy, and mystery novels. The area is lively and plenty of street parking is available.

Vera Cruz

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521 Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This small free library is located across from the Vera Cruz House, designed by architect Jeff Shelton. The design is creative and unique, inspired by a vintage Ford buggy and there is a bench nearby on the sidewalk under a shady tree to sit and read. There is a small pond below and greenery surrounding the library, and parking is available on the street nearby. Unfortunately, the library would need some repairs and book donations.

The book corner of Casa Cota

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1127 E. Cota St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103 | Charter # 116486

Casa Cota’s Book Nook is well organized and clean. The books inside are mostly YA fiction. It is accessible from the sidewalk and parking is scarce. The design is unique and eye-catching, with a two-tier main compartment, an asymmetrical roof and a side shelf to store your belongings while you sail.

Planter library

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115 Santa Ynez Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103 | Charter # 78051

This LFL sticks out of a planter alongside a host of growing succulents. There are solar lights connected to allow nighttime accessibility, and although there is no shade or immediately available seating, there is plenty of parking nearby on the street. The lower half of the compartment is devoted to children’s and young adult fiction, and the upper part is full of historical and dramatic fiction.

Debbie’s LFL

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115 La Vista Grande, Santa Barbara, CA 93103 | Charter # 25658

This LFL shows clear signs of careful maintenance by the owner and the community. The library is clean, full and well organized, with a shade on top to prevent the books from being damaged by the sun. On a nearby post is a monthly book suggestion list, with synopses of each recommended book. In the drawer is a neighborhood commentary book full of thanks and praise from the community – the library is clearly heavily used and much appreciated. The books inside are mostly historical fiction novels, but there are also mystery, comedy, and YA fiction novels.

Strickland LFL

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624 Chelham Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 | Charter # 26217

Located near Lotusland, the Strickland LFL is nestled in a beautiful enclave on the side of the street. Street parking is widely available nearby, and there’s even a bike rack next to the library and a bench for visitors to sit and read in the shade. The books inside are separated by compartments: the books in the lower compartment are mainly children’s books, and the upper cabinet is filled with novels, biographies and comics. The bookcase needs some maintenance – the paint is fading and there is an empty compartment on the side, the purpose of which is unclear.

Braeden Clausen’s Eagle Scout Project

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Manning Park Youth Center, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 | Charter # 87684

Located at the Manning Park Youth Center in Montecito, this library focuses on reading for young people and has a collection of children’s novels and picture books, as well as a few books for parents. The library is clean and well-maintained, and there’s a large sitting area right next to it. Visitors can also take their new books on a stroll through charming Manning Park to find a place to sit and read peacefully.

Rue Figueroa LFL

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309 Figueroa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This small, colorful free library on Figueroa Street sits across from a cheerfully colorful house, surrounded by a lovely garden. The owners have built a shelf under the main compartment to Independent to disperse each week. There is plenty of street parking nearby.

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