Using Little Free Libraries in a pandemic

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Little Free Library on the
Densmore Pathway in the
Echo Lake Neighborhood
Photo by Anne Guthrie

By Anne Guthrie

During these unusual times when we're staying at home from work, school and so many other places, people are spending time enjoying walks in their neighborhoods. 

Because of this, the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up over the years have become popular stops.

The national Little Free Library (LFL) organization, while appreciative of growing use of the libraries, has issued recommendations to help users safely borrow the books they find there. 

The organization asks that stewards of Little Free Libraries be mindful of certain risks that use of a library might pose and have posted recommendations for the maintenance of these libraries, as well as for the Little Free Pantries that have grown in number. 

According to their website and based on the CDC and the advice of other experts, it’s felt that paper-based materials like books are not considered a virus transmission route. However, parts of the library structure could be such a route. 

Because of this, guidelines have been developed for the use of stewards while there is an ongoing threat of Coronavirus transmission. The main recommendation is that non-porous surfaces such as handles or doors be cleaned with a household disinfectant regularly. 

This sign is posted on the Little Free Library
on The Densmore Pathway
Photo by Anne Guthrie

In addition, a sign that cautions library users of possible risks is available and can be downloaded from the website for posting on a LFL. The sign asks that people not gather in front of the library, consider washing their hands with sanitizer or wipes before and after using the library and refrain from sharing books if they or someone in their household is ill. 

The organization's advice to stewards is that unless a community is a current hotspot for coronavirus activity, a LFL is safe to keep open. It further states that 'given the dynamic nature of what is going on, we defer to the judgement of the individual to make the best decision for them and their community.' Some people have chosen to close their LFL temporarily. Should a steward decide to do that, a second sign explaining the reason to users can also be downloaded from the website.

A statement by the Executive Director of the organization says that "many stewards wish to provide a beacon of hope to their neighbors by leaving their LFL open and these precautions are passed on knowing that the strength of the Little Free Library network has been the wonderful individuals that volunteer to steward a LFL. 
"These engaged community members make decisions on design, placement and how to support their library. We share all the information we have, but defer to the wisdom of the local steward to act in accordance with what the CDC and local health authorities recommend." 

With these cautions in mind, we can continue to enjoy sharing books at our neighborhood Little Free Libraries during our strolls this spring. 

Stay safe and read on!


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