During the coronavirus outbreak, Little Free Library stewards are finding creative ways to help their neighbors, transforming their libraries to share everything from ramen noodles and canned goods to toilet paper and jigsaw puzzles. In an ingenious twist, homemade face masks are now being added to little libraries. (See our new map to find a sharing box near you or to add your location.)
Carol Miner of Anacortes, Washington, received her Little Free Library book-sharing box as a birthday gift from her friends five years ago, and it quickly became popular in her walkable town.
“I placed the library so I could see it from my kitchen window, which gives me so much joy as I see children walk or bicycle by on the way to and from school,” says Carol. “Folks routinely drive by and exchange books. There is a memory-care facility a block away and their guests walk by, and they informed me they call it the ‘joy library.'”
“When the virus became a serious reality and the schools and our local library closed, I amped up my stocking of the library,” Carol continues. “I had boxes of children’s books, as well as adult books that were going out of the library as fast as I could fill it. As the situation became more dire I was concerned about the folks using the library and the potential for germs to be spread. I attached a spray bottle of disinfectant and then the thought of making masks seemed like the next logical thing to do.”
Carol now regularly adds home-sewn face masks to her Little Free Library, sized for both adults and children. A note is pinned to each mask, reading, “Please machine wash and dry before wearing, to sterilize.”
The method she uses to sew the masks is poignant: “I sew the masks using my 1933 Singer featherweight sewing machine. The same machines that were used to sew bandages for the Second World War. To me that seemed very significant.”
Carol makes about a dozen masks a day for her little library. “It is a true joy to pick fun fabric (of which I have an abundance from years of making quilts) and stitch each one with hope and safety,” she says.
Not far away, in Seattle, Little Free Library stewards Chuck and Brynne Burkhalter are also sharing cloth face masks and spreading the word on their local Facebook and Google groups. Brynne, along with other friends and neighbors, create the masks. Another friend, epidemiologist Dr. Leslie Phillips, wrote up safety tips that are printed and placed in the little library as well.
Neighbor M. Miller, who helped launch this initiative in Seattle, was inspired by “mask trees” in the Czech Republic and hopes that mask-sharing will spread to other little libraries.
“A Little Free Library is such a hopeful symbol of the community sharing resources and caring for one another,” Miller says. “This is a time we need that more than ever. They are also practical. They are weatherproof, located centrally for many people—including seniors—can be accessed outdoors, and are registered on a map so others have a way of determining one that is near them.”
How to Make a Face Mask
Do you want to share face masks in your Little Free Library? Here are two great resources to help get you started:
The Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public when social distancing is difficult—like when you’re at the grocery store or pharmacy. Find a machine-sewn pattern and no-sew patterns using a t-shirt or a bandanna here. The CDC says that your mask should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops.
- Include multiple layers of fabric.
- Allow for breathing without restriction.
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
2. Free (and Cute) Downloadable Mask Pattern
Rebecca Yaker, a Minneapolis maker and co-author of the One-Yard Wonders book series, has given away more than 100 home-sewn face masks (like the one pictured above) to friends and family. Now she has created a simple and stylish pattern that you can download for free here. Just use the promo code FREEMASK at checkout. She notes that mask-wearers should follow these best practices:
- Your mask is not reversible.
- Do not share your mask.
- Do not touch your face or mask while wearing it.
- Remove your mask by touching the ties only.
- Wash after each use.
- Do not microwave your mask.
Don’t forget to add your Little Free Library to our sharing-box map if you are providing food, masks, or other goods. Thank you to everyone who is showing kindness to your community in ways big and small. We are truly better together!