Ever since the novel coronavirus arrived on U.S. soil, disrupting lives and now, making access to food and other necessities more difficult for many, a number of little free library volunteer stewards -- both registered and unregistered with the Little Free Library organization – have switched from filling the mounted boxes in front of their homes with free books to filling them with household items: food, toilet paper, sanitizer, toiletries, and other necessities, all for the taking by passersby.
While many stewards are filling boxes with cans of food and packaged goods, some are taking a more personal approach: for instance, one woman in Ojai, Calif. is stocking her little free library box with fresh citrus fruit from her trees; another, in Anacortes, Wash. is placing hand-sewn face masks in hers.
In response to this grassroots trend, Little Free Library and another organization in the Minneaopolis-St. Paul metro area, Share With Others, which six months ago were squabbling over LFL’s deceased founder Todd Bol's legacy and trademarks, are both promoting the transformation of little free libraries into little free pantries. LFL is pinpointing the location of the little free libraries – most of them in the U.S. and Canada -- that now hold food and other necessities with an online interactive map. The map includes the location of approximately 225 boxes, as well as what items are available at that location. LFL is asking stewards adapting their book boxes into pantries, whether they are officially registered stewards or not, to add their details to the interactive map.
As for Share With Others,it is giving out bright yellow decals for stewards to attach to their boxes, marking them as little free pantries. Share With Others executive director Tony Bol said on Tuesday afternoon that the organization has shipped close to 250 decals. SWO is also promoting LFL’s interactive map on the SWO Facebook page, which is the only tangible connection between the two organizations.
SWO had another announcement to make: it is “keeping an eye out,” Bol says, for “engaging stories of little library, pantry adaptations.” Four library boxes will be given by SWO to individuals or communities adapting the boxes into pantries in especially helpful ways. “Like the MacArthur Foundation Awards, there is no application process,” Bol explains, “We’ll be combing public platforms and selecting recipients.”
“Little free library stewards converting their libraries into broader sharing boxes are showing the better side of humanity in a deeply challenging time,” LFL executive director Greig Metzger stated in a release.
UPDATE: Share With Others is a for-profit organization. This story has been corrected.