A little free library with barren shelves after books were pulled due to COVID-19. (File Contributed/ victoriaplacemaking.ca)

Vancouver Island little free libraries pulling books due to COVID-19

Some community book exchanges opt to temporarily close to reduce risk of coronavirus exposure

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 — and many more dotting neighbourhoods in communities north of the Malahat — with thousands of books usually available.

ALSO READ: 10,000th book delivered to Little Free Libraries in Greater Victoria

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.

Others have made a practise of doing extra sanitation of the handles and books in their collection.

Others still have considered stocking the shelves with canned food instead of books, as has been popular in the United States.

The little free libraries in Victoria 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.

ALSO READ: 250th Free Little Library installed in Victoria

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.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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