How to Play the Little Library Game

There is a game I play with my children when we’re in the car, and it is called Little Library. Depending on where you live or are traveling, this may or may not be an engaging game for you and your own offspring. Most of the time I’m in Iowa City, Iowa1, which is an UNESCO City of Literature, and we may have a disproportionate number of Little Libraries2 per household.

It’s a pretty simple game and I’ve got a 3 year-old and 6 year-old that I am perpetually playing it with. The general gist of the game is that when you see a Little Library you simply say “Little Library”, and you’re playing already.

The Rules of Little Library

The game has two stages, and the second stage is an optional way to break ties or otherwise make it more competitive.

Stage 1

As you are traveling around town, when you see a Little Library, players say “Little Library” and they are awarded one point.

You cannot get a point for a Little Library if the little library is behind you. Only if it is still ahead of you or when you’re alongside the little library can you get a point.

You may say “Little Library!” as soon as you see a Little Library, but some more competive players like my daughter are quite fond of waiting until the last possible second to say “Little Library” if nobody else in the car has noticed it and called it out yet3.

Everyone can get a point for spotting a little library in Stage 1.

Stage 2

Optional way to raise the stakes is by transitioning to Stage 2.

In Stage 2, the first person to call out a Little Library is the only person that can get a point for it. This eliminates the sneak factor but rewards the players that spot the Little Library before anyone else. It’s a good way to end a tie-breaker or mix it up a bit.

Other Variations

There are other possible variations on this game by adopting rules from similar games. My mother’s family has a game they play called Zip Horse which is like Little Library but with horses, obviously, and the color of the horse determines the points it was worth to the spotter. One interesting rule of Zip Horse is that if you drive past a cemetary, everyone on that side of the car loses their points. I have been reluctant to adopt a somewhat creepy spooky ruleset for Little Library, however.

I hope you enjoy Little Library! (little library!) and feel free to let me know if you play it with your own family next time you go for a drive, and if you have any suggestions to improve the game. Please consider that this game should be approachable for young children and not too complicated or upsetting.

  1. Iowa City of Literature 

  2. wtf is a Little Library

  3. She consistently pulls ahead of her brother and I by employing this tactic. A typical morning commute dropping off kids in the morning ends with Prue having 3-4 points and Calvin and I with 1 or 2.