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Coping with the Crisis and the “The Little Free Libraries®”

July 9, 2020
assorted books on shelf

Photo by Element5 Digital on

Villanova University has been functioning virtually during the COVID crisis, but this week started offering contactless curbside pick-up and fair use scanning services. Efforts like this and more are being made by academic and public libraries across the commonwealth, “Checking in, not out: How libraries are moving from closed toward reopening.”

The Little Free Libraries ( however have also played a role during the pandemic as a limited temporary surrogate.

The organization even has a webpage for stewards on “Best Practices at Little Free Libraries During the Coronavirus Outbreak.”

The Little Free® movement, however, has not been without its controversies and critics. In 2017 a Bloomberg News feature entitled, Against Little Free Libraries: Does that birdhouse filled with paperbacks on your block represent an adorable neighborhood amenity or the “corporatization of literary philanthropy”? referenced an article by librarians who took issue with them, and backed up their critique with data. See, Schmidt, Jane, and Jordan Hale. “Little Free Libraries®.” Journal of Radical Librarianship, vol. 3, Apr. 2017, pp. 14–41.

So why are they being promoted by other nonprofits, such as the United Way in Erie County. Because the Little Free Libraries have shown that they can be a vehicle for more than ‘corporatized literary philanthropy,’ including by PBS Newshour’s “Little libraries become food pantries during COVID-19.”

And other news outlets across the country:

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