Little Free Library Safety During COVID-19

Libraries throughout the Fox Cities are temporarily closing their doors to patrons in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many offer ebook and audiobook rentals digitally, but for those who desire the feel of a tangible book in their hands, this is a problematic situation. More readers are turning to Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in the meantime. 

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes reading and community building through neighborhood book exchanges. Anyone can host a library by installing a waterproof box in their yard which they fill with used books. Neighbors may take a book they wish to read and leave a book behind for others. 

Currently there are 100,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide. With more than 60 Little Free Libraries in the Fox Cities, readers don’t have to travel far to find a book-sharing box near them. 

During these uncertain times, many Little Free Library stewards are weighing whether or not their library should stay open. Many stewards wish to provide a beacon of hope to their neighbors by leaving their Little Free Library open. Some continue to share books, while others are transforming their boxes into “little free pantries” offering items like canned goods and toilet paper for neighbors in need. Other stewards are taking extra precautions and temporarily closing their Little Free Libraries.

If you are planning to host or utilize a Little Free Library book box in the future, take the following precautions: 

  • Wash or sanitize your hands before opening a Little Free Library.
  • Take the books out and clean them with a microfiber cloth or disinfectant wipes.
  • Clean the entire library—including the handle and bookshelves—with disinfectant wipes.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands again.
  • To clean books, use a microfiber cloth rather than disinfectant wipes on paperbacks or books with cloth covers, so they wouldn’t be damaged. For books with plastic covers, you can use disinfectant wipes. 

Recent data from The New England Journal of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health shows that the coronavirus is detectable on cardboard for up to 24 hours. According to CNN Health, cleaning removes viruses and bacteria from surfaces, but disinfecting kills them. 

Little Free Library also recommends the following:

  • If you are sick, don’t share books until you are symptom-free.
  • If your neighbors are sick, they should not come to your library.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer every time you use a library.
  • Do not gather with others at Little Free Library boxes. Social distancing is critical to flattening the curve and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Click here to find a Little Free Library near you. 

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