Centennial family sets up a free library on their front porch to help kids cope with COVID-19

Posted at 9:54 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 02:48:22-04

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in Colorado, thousands of people are being told to work from home. Libby Ames, who works as a librarian at Laredo Middle School, took the idea a little more literally when she created her own library right on her front porch.

Ames has been a librarian for about six years and says her passion has always been in reading books. So, last Saturday, when she found out that the libraries were closing, she was heartbroken.

“That was a hard, dark day for me and that was kind of when I decided that I wanted to take on this project,” Ames said.

For months, the family was already planning on adding a small, free library to their front yard. For Christmas, Ames’ husband revealed that he had been working with the homeowner’s association in the neighborhood to get permission to set up a free library.

However, before the couple got around to buying the supplies to build one, the schools and libraries were closed. Not wanting to sit around, Ames’ took her family to a nearby store and bought 100 books with her own money to get the library started.

“For me, as a mother and as an educator, it’s really important,” Ames said. “They have a physical book, and to have something to look at and interact with is, I think, really an important thing to just have a break from that screen mindset.”

Creating Libby’s Little Library has become a family affair; Ames’ daughter designed the logo, her two sons picked out the books and her husband set up the website to encourage people to stop by.

“The idea is that people come take a couple of books, take them home and read them, and then if they’re done and want new books, they can bring them back and return them in my return bin,” Ames said.

For the kids who fall in love with a certain book and can’t part ways with it, families are encouraged to donate another book in its place.

Once the books are returned, Ames wipes each one down with disinfectant wipes and sets them aside for at least a day. Experts say COVID-19 can live on cardboard surfaces for about 24 hours.

She also has home-made hand sanitizer she and her kids made following Centers for Disease Control recommendations, which is set out on the table, along with a sign encouraging people to disinfect their hands before and after they browse the books in the little library.

Ames hopes that by taking these extra precautions, she’s helping keep families safe while giving them an option to read.

Ever the librarian, Ames couldn’t help but sort the books into genres like she’s used to doing at Laredo Middle School, though she admits she’s given up on alphabetizing.

She’s even thinking about adding star stickers onto the books that are her favorites to encourage kids to check them out.

Already, Libby’s Little Library is growing in popularity. One by one, families stopped by this week and picked up a few books to keep their kids entertained while they wait to go back to school.

Many families also brought books to donate; the library has already quadrupled in size since it started and more books are coming in each day.

“I just like that there is still access to books because a lot of libraries have been closed down,” said Paxton Dabasinskas, who stopped by on Monday. “They just take you away to another world and help you forget about stuff.”

Once things return to normal, Ames says she’ll put some books into the free library her family is hoping to build and will donate the rest.

For now, she’s just hoping her little library will help entertain kids and keep their minds active.