Booneville library collects winter clothes

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Booneville Public Library Branch Manager Brittany Downs hangs winter jackets for those in need at the branch library, Wednesday, Jan. 27.
Renita Walker, Booneville Public Library circulation clerk, sorts and inspects new winter clothing donated to the library, Wednesday, Jan. 27, in Booneville.

The Booneville Public Library gives away winter clothes to those who need them.

The rack of clothes sits at the entrance to the building, where people can take winter clothing items no questions asked, said Brittany Downs, the library's branch manager.

“We just want to make sure kids and anyone who comes in and needs a jacket can grab one," Downs said.

Children, “from little tiny babies to older kids,” often come to the library after school without jackets, said Lila Luerssen, a library clerk. With the clothing rack present, the librarians can give kids coats immediately.

“So it’s really getting used," Downs said.

Children's clothing is the library's most needed winter gear, Downs said.

The library initially started collecting winter clothes as part of the Mr. Rogers' Sweater Drive with PBS in 2017.

“It’s mostly in larger cities," Downs said about the sweater drive.

Back then the library would donate the clothes to a local thrift shop that employs people with disabilities.

This is the second year Downs has given away clothing at the library, where people can pick up clothes anytime they need.

The library is a place where people go to print off documents, get notarized, use wifi and apply for jobs.

“And it’s our job as librarians to share that with our community," Downs said.

The library offers many resources to the community and can connect people with additional programs.

“So adding winter gear and winter clothing was just another ideal approach to help our community in any way that we can," Downs said.

The library is also a place where people feel safe, and Downs wanted to add to that by ensuring that they had warm clothing to wear during the winter months.

“When people come in, they feel comfortable," Downs said.

Downs accepts new and gently used items. The librarians make sure there are no stains or holes in any of the clothing and sanitize them before putting them out on the rack.

The staff sprays the clothes with disinfectant and wipes down the rack after each person looks for clothes.

“We make sure it looks nice," Downs said.

The library receives about 10 winter clothing items a week that can be used. The clothes include all different sizes. Items the library accepts are gloves, toboggans, coats, jackets, and sweaters.

The library staff began collecting winter clothes in late October.

“I wanted to be prepared," Downs said.

The community has stepped up to support the effort. Downs said she's had people go out and buy clothes specifically to donate to the library.

Her next goal is to offer dried goods to the people who come to the library. She plans to have a cabinet at the entrance to the library where people can pick up canned and dried goods.

“We are like the cornerstone for the community," Downs said. 

Downs said she hopes to have the new program up and running by mid-March. Prior to beginning to offer people food, Downs will develop a procedure plan and have the library stocked with food.

“I just feel that the library is more than books," Downs said.