With libraries closed, ‘mini library’ book exchange pods, and boxes in ‘free pantry’ projects are a lifeline for readers, boosting mental health

Library’s little brother

by Andy Bryenton

With municipal libraries closed due to Covid-19, many avid readers around the region will feel the loss of a source for new material to while away the hours. While the doors of the big library are closed, smaller community-driven options are there to pick up the torch.

Dargaville’s Lilliput library, in Portland Street near the park and Kindergarten entrance, is one such example. However, book exchanges are popping up all over in separate boxes in community pantries, as readers fill the gap left by necessary library closures. There’s an etiquette around dropping off and picking up books during these times, so the people who use them remain safe. 

First, bring only books that you really think are a great read. Wipe down the covers gently with a sanitiser, and don’t forget to bring some with you to treat the books you pick up and the door handle of the cupboard, as necessary. If you get to a library box and notice that there are double ups with what you’ve brought, don’t leave them. Right now, it’s all about quality and variety. 

By supporting your local book exchange programme, you can share works of fiction and non-fiction to keep people’s mind busy and help with mental health during the lockdown. You could also include children’s books to help parents with homeschooling or finding new stories for bedtime. Alternatively, pop in a cookery book to help neighbours and friends keep their menus exciting in this age of no takeouts or restaurants. Some book swappers have even taken to popping a small, encouraging note inside their drop-offs to brighten the day of whoever picks up that volume next.