In Uncertain Times, Little Free Library Stewards Lend a Hand

By Lexie Neeley

Community engagement and sharing with others are at the heart of the Little Free Library movement. In just a few days, the spirit of sharing in Little Free Libraries has shifted to accommodate different and increased needs in communities all over the world.

By now you may have already seen stories and photos of stewards in cities near and far transforming their book-exchange boxes into “little free pantries,” offering items like canned goods, toilet paper, sanitizing products, and more while COVID-19 has changed day-to-day life drastically for everyone.

While some stewards have opted to close their little libraries completely to limit potential exposure to frequently-touched surfaces, others are swapping out books for household essentials to help out neighbors in need. And a number of stewards are offering both books and pantry items!

Give What You Can, Take What You Need

In Bellevue, Washington, steward Grant and his daughter, Katie, have transformed Little Free Library #30090 pictured above) into a food bank, complete with a sign with this kind message: “In this time of need, please take what you want and donate what you can! Please be safe, and stay well!”

Little Free Phone Box

In El Cajon, California, steward Alice offers books and pantry items in her red phone box library. The green note on the window asks neighbors to give her a call if the box runs low, or if they want to donate and it’s too full.

Trading Paperbacks for Toilet Paper

In Saskatoon, Paul has stocked his little library with toilet paper in individual bags with a note of encouragement posted on the door. In our steward’s Facebook group, Paul added, “Our library has not closed; instead it has become a different kind of community hub.”

A Lighthearted Moment

Little Free Library #96784, currently closed as a book exchange, now offers passersby a laugh despite, complete with a light to illuminate the display and sanitizing wipes to ensure visitors can do so safely.  Steward Cristie began with a “Mary Peepins” display and shared in our Little Free Library Stewards group on Facebook, “I want to change it every week” and requested book-themed ideas. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

A Poem a Day

Elizabeth, steward of Little Free Library #21809 is sharing poetry in the window of her library while it is on hiatus. “I love the idea of placing a new poem in there every couple of days so people walking by can stop and read them and still feel that community connection a LFL gives. I want to post hopeful poems to help keep people’s spirits up. (And keep them reading something besides the news!)” The photos below are before and after the library was converted to share poetry.

A Library with Laughs

In Oakland, California, a Little Free Library temporarily closed for book-sharing has converted into a “Little Joke Library” to brighten people’s day. “Enjoy these and pass them on (from a distance of at least 6 feet)!”

Knitting, Anyone?

Not only are stewards changing up the resources they offer, their patrons are also contributing what they can. Zoe in British Columbia discovered her little library’s door damaged, but a contribution of yarn and knitting needles with this kind note: “Take [one] and social distance like a champ.”

Gifts to Unwrap

Our Little Free Library stewards are getting creative in how they share books, too! Case in point: this colorful Little Free Library full of books that have been sanitized and wrapped for readers to take home.

A Little Librarian in Quarantine

Little Free Library #55253 in Chino Hills, California has a live-in librarian who is now in “quarantine.” Steward Jane says: “I have a Little Free Library in my front yard. I really love that our neighbors use it to share books. When my husband built the library, he added a room to the side for our ‘librarian’ to live in. We’ve named her Marietta (after one of my grandmothers) and we decorate her room for holidays. We decided that Marietta needs to self-quarantine for a while, so we got her some supplies and she is now Safe At Home! A little kindness goes a long way…be safe, friends!” (Don’t miss the photo below!)

In these stressful and uncertain times, we’re grateful to see our community of stewards—and a broader community of neighbors—come together to lift one another up and lend a helping hand.

Whether your book- or resource-sharing box is open or closed, we urge you to follow the advice of the CDC and practice frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and staying home as much as you are able.

Interested in doing more? Read a note from our executive director, Greig Metzger, on expanding your Little Free Library pantry efforts to help serve your local food banks here.

If you’ve seen an act of kindness at a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, or if you’re a steward getting creative at your Little Free Library, let us know about it! Please contact us.

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