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Little Free Libraries around Boston become donation centers

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Little Free Libraries around Boston become donation centers
A Little Free Library at the Massachusetts Historical Society offers books and copies of Boston Compass. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

Boston Public Library branches around the city are closed in accordance with COVID-19 social distancing measures, but communities are continuing to share books and hope via Little Free Libraries in their neighborhoods.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes access to reading material in “book deserts” through community-run put-and-take library boxes. They currently have more than 100,000 libraries in over 100 countries, including many in the Greater Boston area. In fact, when Roslindale’s Boston Public Library branch closed last fall for renovations, the neighborhood came together to install more than 15 Little Free Libraries around town to bridge the gap.

A Little Free Library on Dunster Street in Jamaica Plain. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

A Little Free Library on Dunster Street in Jamaica Plain. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

Typically, these little libraries are a place to share books. Community members drop off books of all kinds that they want to pass on, and they pick up new reads from what their neighbors have left. But now, they have come to serve an additional purpose. “What we’ve found during the COVID-19 epidemic is that our Little Free Library stewards are stepping up to share not only books, but things like food, personal care items, home-sewn face masks, even toilet paper,” says Margret Aldrich, director of communications for Little Free Library.

These essential-item drop-off locations are now findable by a new map on the Little Free Library site. Library stewards can register their location and what items they offer. The stewards of the Little Free Library at 6 Gleason Street in Medford, for instance, write that they’re offering food and household products, and encourage donors to sanitize everything before dropping off items.

On the web
Find a Little Free Library with pantry items:

Aldrich says the organization has also noticed an uptick in Little Free Libraries being created during this period, especially by families looking for a group activity to do with children. Those interested in making a library can construct it on their own or purchase a kit or a fully made library from the Little Free Library website. A majority of people, 60%, build their own and then register with the Little Free Library website to help readers find them.

There are no specifications for what a Little Free Library needs to look like, and this creative license has resulted in libraries designed like spaceships or Victorian mansions or even carved into trees.

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