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SJPL Staff Sew Face Coverings for Community

Package of hand-sewn face coverings produced by SJPL staff.

Staff Organize to Sew Face Coverings

San José Public Libraries have long embraced skills-based programming, which includes sewing and, in many of our locations, public access to sewing machines. When the CDC and local health officials recommended that individuals wear face coverings while in public to slow the spread of COVID-19, library staff harnessed their collective sewing know-how to make cloth face coverings and distribute to members in the community.

A survey of staff proved that there were employees not only willing to sew and prep materials, but also to donate fabric and elastic -— two materials that are currently hard to purchase online. The library has an inventory of 24 sewing machines, and 19 sewists were identified among library staff. Project leaders worked with library administration to develop safety instructions for the distribution of materials and production of the face coverings. An added boost to the program was generous monetary donations from the Friends of the Library, and two volunteers stepped up to offer their own sewing services! The donated funds allowed for more fabric and supplies like laundry detergent, as well as postage costs.

Berryessa Branch Library: The Sewing Workshop Space

Duy Tran, library clerk, measuring and cutting elastic
Image: Duy Tran, library clerk, measuring and cutting elastic.

Most sewing is happening as staff members shelter in place in their homes. Berryessa Branch was able to convert the branch community room to a workshop where staff can sign up for shifts to prep, pickup materials, or drop off finished products while maintaining social distancing standards. Book drops across the library system were identified as donation sites for staff to safely donate materials without coming into contact with other employees. The library routing system shuttles donations to the Berryessa Branch Workshop, as needed.

The Stats

Maggie Kuo, librarian, cutting fabric.
Image: Maggie Kuo, librarian, cutting fabric.

Sewing a face covering can range from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the design. Safety steps are taken to properly wash and package completed items in sealed bags. Sewing officially began on April 24, and already 320 face coverings have been completed. Library staff recently delivered 100 face coverings to HomeFirst, to be distributed to the individuals experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County. The goal is to complete a total of 600 face coverings and deliver to Friends of the Library and library volunteers with over the age of 45 or with more than 5 years of volunteer service.

Sewn Masks: 2nd PPE Project

Scott Kimizuka, library assistant, packaging completed product.
Image: Scott Kimizuka, library assistant, packaging completed product.

This is the second DIY production project of personal protective equipment (PPE) that library employees have embarked upon since the shelter in place order and subsequent library closure. San Jose Public Library recently made and donated 220 face shields and 75 face masks with library 3D printers. The personal protective equipment was delivered to Good Samaritan Hospital on San Jose on April 24.

More Photos

Face Coverings @ Berryessa Branch Library

Make Your Own

For those interested in making their own face coverings, the three patterns utilized for the library’s cloth face covering project are all free resources from local healthcare providers:


Submitted by Pat Charling on Fri, 05/15/2020 - 1:17 PM


Your Comment
I would like some of these face coverings. How do I get them?
Thank you.

Your Comment

Thank you for your interest, the project was started to help provide our volunteers and other community organizations that we partner with, access to cloth face coverings. At this time we are not able to provide additional face coverings.

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