At a time when more people than usual are probably at home reading, some little free libraries are pulling books off of the shelves due to COVID-19 concerns.
The community-run initiative sees residents build unique miniature libraries stationed along sidewalks, fence posts or even hanging from trees for community members to use as a book exchange.
There are more than 280 little free libraries scattered across Greater Victoria, with thousands of books usually available.
Some, however, are temporarily pulling the plug to limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“We’re joining GVPL [Greater Victoria Public Library] and other little libraries, and closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Please don’t drop off any books until the infection risk has passed. Wash your hands, stay two metres from anyone you don’t live with. Stay safe,” reads a tweet from Bellevue Books, a little free library located near Bellevue and Cook streets.
As of March 22nd, we’re temporarily closed.
We’re joining GVPL and other Little Libraries, and closing due to the covid-19 outbreak. Please don’t drop off any books until the infection risk has passed.
Wash your hands, stay two meters from anyone you don’t live with. Stay safe. pic.twitter.com/8L9yNrfE4P
— BellevueBooks (@BellevueBooks) March 22, 2020
Others have made a practise of doing extra sanitation of the handles and books in their collection.
— KingsleyLFL (@KingsleyLfl) March 20, 2020
Others still have considered stocking the shelves with canned food instead of books, as has been popular in the United States.
Our little Rotary club has temporarily converted our Little Free Library to Little Free Pantry plus books plus sanitizing agents on the outside.
— Carrie Jones (@carriejonesbook) March 24, 2020
The little free libraries are often maintained by the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (GVPN), which adds the libraries to a map, occasionally tops up books and offers advice and publicity for the box exchanges.
“As of last week, we have suspended any distribution of books to individual LFLs [little free libraries],” said Ray Straatsma, president, GVPN. “The libraries themselves are largely owned and operated by local residents and community-minded people.”
The GVPN further emphasizes that if people do leave their libraries open to be cautious of sanitizing them, and to still maintain good distance from other people, as advised by the Provincial Health Officer.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff is the Pocket Places Project Lead for the GVPN and acknowledged the struggles of the time.
“I’ve often described little free libraries as coral reefs for community because they help connect and bring people together. Unfortunately, at a time when everyone should be practising physical distancing, this is not a feature that we want to encourage,” Phelps Bondaroff said.
He added that as everyone in the community, LFL owners and users should check in with the BCCDC for the most updated tips on staying healthy.