South Manchester’s Little Libraries: How a Burnage book stand has blossomed into a literary trail

Helen Beesley set up a small table piled high with spare books for neighbours to borrow - and after interest soared, she's encouraging others to do the same.

Olivia Stringer Olivia Stringer - 26th April 2021

The organiser of the South Manchester Little Library Trail is urging residents to set up their own book-borrowing sites outside their homes and keep the literary route stretching across more neighbourhoods.

Helen Beesley, a resident of Burnage, was inspired last August to set up her own library in a little nook on her garden path after noticing a friend in Pontefract who had done the same.

Helen’s first steps were to gather all of her spare books and source a small side table off Facebook marketplace.

Her original plan was to pop a few books out when the weather was nice. But, within a few days, Helen’s little library was getting more interest than she could have anticipated – with nearby residents both borrowing and donating books.

It was then she decided to make the little library more of a permanent feature.

Helen set up the first little library in Burnage

Helen said: “It was such an uplifting experience as the public libraries were closed and shops were shut so people were finding it really hard to get books and many just couldn’t afford the expense.

“We usually have many more books than we need and so we don’t mind if books are kept when someone finds them extra special.


“I have found that having the libraries so accessible has meant some people who have never visited a public library have popped to one of ours. There are no rules and no need to sign up, no barriers physical or otherwise to accessing any books.”

Due to the success of the Burnage Little Free Library (LFL), Helen decided to set up a trail of local little libraries and started a community group.

Soon, The Hutch Withington LFL and The Fair Weather Library Levenshulme LFL were set up outside the homes of local residents – and the trail had officially come to life.


More recently, as the UK’s lockdown restrictions have continued to loosen, further libraries have been added in Didsbury, Wythenshawe and Withington.

Didsbury Little Free Library / Image: Facebook

Helen and her team are also planning a virtual meeting next week to help others set up their own little libraries – with plans for sites in Hulme and more in Withington and Burnage. 

A map of the libraries currently on the trail can be found online.

As well as urging people to start little libraries outside their own homes, Helen and her team are also raising money for improved book storage in a bid to keep expanding the route – with a GoFundMe page set up online.

It’s already proven to be a hit – with the South Manchester Little Library Trail generating some great feedback from visitors.


One visitor said: “My daughter is a little book monster and theses libraries are an absolute God-send. We have loved coming by to borrow and donate and I have also loved being able to read lots of brilliant books. We are so grateful to the people who run and set them up so a big thank you to all of you.”

Another added: “I have really appreciated the Burnage Library, because I was off work sick for a few months and ran out of books to read… I borrowed some books off a friend, but didn’t like them all! So it was really give myself the challenge of walking a couple of miles to the library and having a choice of material.”

Details of the libraries on the trail can be found on the South Manchester Little Library Trail Facebook page.

Any South Manchester residents interested in setting up their own little library or have a library they would like to be added to the trail can contact Helen on: [email protected]