Little Free Libraries
Access to a visit to the library for children or adults is an important community resource. Books just became more accessible in some communities along the coast. Little Free Libraries is an international program devoted to providing access to books for adults and children on a very local level. The program places small decorated library boxes in neighborhoods and playgrounds. People are free to borrow books or donate books to the box on their own, it is entirely community driven. There are Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries with millions of books exchanged every year.
Andrea Schacht, Services and Supports manager for the Santa Maria office at TCRC was really inspired by the concept behind the little libraries. “I started thinking about how TCRC could join this community,” said Andrea, “especially for our Spanish speaking families and in areas with perhaps fewer resources.” Andrea invited various TCRC partner agencies together to discuss the possibilities of constructing Little Free Libraries in communities that are served by TCRC. “We had the idea to take the Little Free Library concept and have people we support build the little libraries and then decorate and paint them for placement in the community. “
Providing access to books is just a small part of a much broader ideal of the Little Free Library project. In addition to fostering a love of literature by providing access to books, the libraries are also a source of opportunities. They are opportunities to give, create, and inform. But mostly they are about community. Community involvement is the cornerstone of the Little Free Library movement. The libraries are funded, stocked and maintained organically, on a grassroots level.
One agency that was instrumental in helping Andrea launch the library was the Housing Authority. “Since many of the individuals we serve are low income, we partner with the Housing Authority and we decided to see if they would be interested in having the Little Libraries at their housing sites. To our amazement, they were.” Once they had access to potential building sites, Andrea enlisted the help of TCRC partners, UCP Work Inc. and Novelles Developmental Services, to help build and paint the libraries. The work was entirely done by individuals who are supported by TCRC. The city of Guadalupe was selected as the site for the first library. “Guadalupe is a small agricultural community, somewhat isolated, with few resources for children and families. So this became our goal for the location of the first library” said Andrea.
This was when the community really came together. Andrea met with the local families and explained the project to them. “They were very excited about the idea and anxious to help. We emphasized that this was about individuals we support, giving to others and about providing an educational, fun experience for children and involving the community.”
Meanwhile, people who had heard about the project began donating books. One family member from TCRC brought two trucks full of books. Staff members from many different agencies contributed as well. The people whom TCRC serves at Novelles inspected the books for damage and put a Little Free Library label in each book. According to Andrea, “the concept of the Little Library is that you can keep a book or return it and we wanted the children to be able to keep a book if they wanted. The crews at Novelles were busy!”
The grand opening was held at a new playground in Guadalupe in August. It was quite a celebration. There was music, prizes, a hula hoop contest and many, many books to give out. A police officer from the Guadalupe Police Dept. read to the children- and even tried Hula Hooping! So far, the Little Free Library has been a grand success with dozens of books being traded every week. There are plans for as many as eleven more libraries with each library being sponsored by a different agency serving people with developmental disabilities.
“It’s amazing what people coming together can do with practically no money and only the goal of doing for others” exclaimed Andrea. “When people in Guadalupe began hearing others talk about the little libraries, they were so appreciative that this was done for their community… that someone actually cared.”