The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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Mini Lending Library

I had a request to build 2 of these mini lending libraries.  I searched the Internet to find an existing design that I liked.  I found a robust, but easy to build design here.

This design uses Kreg pocket screws to build the basic 3/4" plywood box.  There are only 2 things I don't like on this design:

1. The door frame just sits in a rectangular pocket.  In the Midwest, Illinois, we get driving rains and snows, which over the years will cause moisture to get to the books inside.
          I plan to modify the design and use a  kitchen cabinet type over-lapping door to the frame. This will reduce the chances of moisture getting inside. I found some cabinet hinges at ACE hardware, that allow for a 3/8" overlap on the door to the opening.
     I made a 3/8x3/8" rabbet on the outside edges of all 4 boards. I used Kreg pocket screws to hold the rails and stiles together.

2. The roof design is just cedar pieces butted together. On a regular cedar wood shingle roof, at least 2 layers of cedar are used, with the top layer overlapping the 1st layer.
           I plan on trying to overlap the roof with 2 layers.

The plan calls for 1 whole sheet of 3/4" plywood per lending library.  I just got 1 sheet to see how far it would go.  I do have some scrap plywood in inventory that I can use on this project.

I found acrylic sheeting at Lowes for the clear plastic window.

Here is my initial cutting plan for the sheet of 3/4" plywood.




3/4" exterior plywood

18x24 acrylic clear plastic for door



-1x3 cedar

-6 ft dog eared cedar pickets for roof

Clear Acrylic Plastic Sheet

I left the plastic film on the sheet, marked it with a red sharpy, and sawed it ok on the band saw.

I cut the groove to hold this plastic sheet using 1 pass on the table saw.

Material Cost

I forgot to include the acrylic sheet cost, which was about $11.

Cutting the Plywood

A sheet of 3/4" plywood is too heavy for me to haul by myself down into my basement workshop.  I rough cut the plywood on 2 sawhorses in my garage. I took the pieces down to my basement workshop for final cutting to size on the table saw.  This worked well.

Basic Box Assembly

I used my 2 bigger sawhorses to build the basic box.  Then I got out my 2 smallest sawhorses (in height), to make it more ergonomically friendly to add the x-braces and framing to the box.


Adding The Gables with Kreg Pocket Screws

I cut the 3 triangular pieces for the gables using my red jig saw.  I found the gable pieces would not set 90 degrees to the top of the box, because the jig saw cut them at a slight angle. My blade must have been slightly bent.  I had to clean up some of them on the big band saw.  Maybe next time, rough cut using jig saw, and final cut on band saw.

Plywood Sheeting on Roof

2-layers of overlapping cedar shingles

Hand Lettering

The customer requested I add some very specific wording to the front of the box.  I decided to use Comic Sans font, because with its rounded ends of letters, it is much easier to hand letter. She also requested I have something Pink in color, because that was the lady's favorite color that the units are being dedicated to.  I decided to place a pink star above the person's name, that the units are in memory of.

These letters are about 1-1/4" tall, and I was not sure I could hand letter them.  I tried and I was able to hand letter them ok.  On unit #1, I hand lettered the piece installed in the whole assembly. It was not as difficult as I thought, because I could rest my arm on the other parts of the unit to steady it.

On unit #2, I went ahead and hand lettered the truss triangle piece before final assembly. This was easier, and I could use the oven at 115F to speed up drying of the enamel paint I used for the lettering.

Final Painting

Everything got 1 coat of Zinsser's white primer, then a 2nd coat of white semi-gloss latex exterior paint.

Sketchup Model

I drew this in Sketchup, and put the model in the sketchup warehouse. You can access it here.


The bottom of the box is 36 inches above ground.  So I made the 4x4 post a total of 72 inches long, to allow 36 inches in the ground (which is the frost line in Illinois). I set the posts in concrete. After allowing the concrete to set for 3 days, I bolted the box onto the post.  I had already bolted the 2 cross pieces to the top of the post, before I set them in concrete.

Community Reaction

I posted this project on our local city facebook page, and the ladies really loved this project.  The local library helped to stock both little libraries full of children's books.

One park has a long reputation for vandalism.  It will be interesting to see if the mini lending library in that park gets vandalized.  The box is sturdy enough, that you can beat it with a baseball bat, and you will just hurt the bat!   However, they could rip the door right off in the box, in which case a new door would have to be fabricated.


October 2018 Update

Apparently, the kids hung on the door, causing the frame on the hinge side to split.  I repaired the door, and beefed it up with steel right angles. This was at North Park.

February 2019 Update

The door in North Park got broken again. I decided to design the strongest wood door that I know how to build.  The changes I made were:

-increased the rail and stile width to 3 inches

-switched from cedar to pine. I probably should have used pressure-treated, and I can change it if the pine does not hold up long enough

-went to glued mortise and tenon joints versus Kreg pocket screws

-use 1/4" dowel and draw bore method for tightening and strengthening each mortise and tenon joint

-changed the way I made the plastic panel removable. Used screwed on trim to hold it versus requiring the top stile to be removable

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