Announcing Impact Library Recipients, July 2021

By Lexie Neeley

Congratulations to this month’s Impact Library recipients, and welcome to the Little Free Library family!

Little Free Library’s Impact Library Program provides no-cost Little Free Library book exchanges to underserved communities where they can make a meaningful impact on book access and reading motivation.

Cynthia Watkins | Kings Highway Elementary Magnet PTA | Clearwater, FL 

Our school is a title one school located in a community that is always overlooked. We have many children and elderly in the neighborhood and most of the families are low-income. As the president of the school PTA, this would be an awesome gift not only for the school but the neighborhood community as well. Little Free Libraries are few and far between this school and I believe it would be a wonderful addition outside the school for the whole community to enjoy! I have been collecting book donations to be able to maintain a library. We also have a Girl Scout troop that will make sure maintenance is kept up on the library. Thank you for the opportunity and what a wonderful thing to do for communities!

Danielle Shields | Sumter, SC 

This Little Free Library would be located in the Garden Gate Community and accessible for all of the Sumter, SC area – mainly focused on the military families living in this town. My husband is on active duty in the Air Force, and many of our direct neighbors in Garden Gate are military families as well. This Little Free Library would reach SO many families – especially with the high turnaround with the military lifestyle. Due to military life as well – our families do not always have quick or direct access to community libraries or would prefer to have something closer to home to utilize. Thank you all very much for your consideration of contributing a built Little Free Library for our community. I believe the military families in the area truly deserve a quiet spot to grab a free book and add the collection in the box as well when they are able. This will be a great contribution to our community and allow great interaction of residents in the area. These military families (the active-duty members as well as their spouses and children) work very hard at protecting our country – many times at their own personal sacrifice. We appreciate your consideration in advance and look forward to working with your organization in setting up a Little Free Library in our wonderful military community!

Elizabeth Jimenez, Albuquerque, NM 

My small community is not located near any amenities that allow access to books. Lots of kids in the area may be interested and end up reading if the books are here and free. Illiteracy is a major problem here in New Mexico and a little library could help. Some seniors (my neighbors) in the area can’t drive to the library or bookstore. Several of them say they would be interested in having a little library when I talk to them about the books I’ve read and traded. With the pandemic, money is tight for families and seniors so free books would work out well in the long run. They might meet their neighbors at the library box and become friends. Getting people outside is a good thing. Having a box in the neighborhood shows someone cares about them. I am retired and love to read so I am always looking for used books. It will be nice to be able to supply them with the ones I’m done with. It will also give me an ongoing activity to keep me responsible for something important.

Heather Hardy | Dalton, GA 

I live in the town of Dalton, Georgia. Dalton bears the dubious distinction of being known as the least educated town in America. I would like to help play a tiny part in changing that, at least in our neighborhood.  In a very homogenous part of the country, our street has families of many nationalities and colors. Despite being a very disadvantaged area, children play happily and everyone coexists. I would love to create an even greater sense of community. My home, where I would like to place a Little Library, is immediately across the street from the gathering place where our Title 1 schools deliver free lunches to children in our neighborhood every weekday, all summer, and most school breaks. It’s a small area, but a de facto play spot, that I think could be a welcoming gathering area. I would like to stock our library with books in both English and Spanish and provide signage for both as well. It’s mostly about reading, but I hope people will stop and talk to their neighbors more too.

Lana Kirkwood | YWCA Frasers Gardens | Langley, British Columbia 

My son and I live in a subsidized, single mother’s apt building with an inner-city designated school nearby, as well as a park and the one-way downtown shopping area. Being on a busy road means the little library would see a lot of family foot traffic, as well as the children residing in our building. I think it would be a great addition to our neighbourhood. There is a public library, but that doesn’t compare to taking home a book to keep. We will keep the library filled through community donations and local library and school book sales.

Laura Hartman | Holabird Academy | Baltimore, MD 

The O’Donnell Heights community is an underserved community filled with hard-working and dedicated individuals. The community is composed of mixed-income housing as well as public housing. The community recently has had 2 brand new Net Zero schools built and a community playground. In order to get to the nearest library, community members need to take 2 buses. The community deserves more and a Little Free Library is just one way that will help to build confidence, to educate, and to inspire a love of reading. Books are donated to the school regularly. However, we don’t have a great way of getting them to the community, other than to the students. The staff is also willing to help ensure that the library always has books in it with books from their own reading.

Lindsey Burns | The Bee’s Knees Toys and Books | Central, SC 

We are opening up a children’s book and toy store in the community of Central, SC. We are adding an event space to our building to host community activities and provide more educational opportunities for children in our area. The nearest schools are Central and Liberty Primary, a title one school. Almost half of the population is below the poverty level with a median family income of $38,026. We will be located near the main street area and hope to get a lot of walking and bicycle traffic. We would like the library to be by the sidewalk of our store so that children will be able to get a free book at any time of day. We want to build strong readers and promote literacy in our community. We will maintain the flow of books by donating books from our bookstore. We will check it regularly and make sure it is full and in great shape.

Maria Kenison | Springfield, MA 

The community is low-income and primarily bilingual. The local library is within the local grade school and is unavailable during the late afternoon, evenings or weekends. The community was divided by a highway many years ago, cutting off access to the remainder of the community and adding a 45-minute long walk to the next nearest library. This LFL would immediately create access to books for children and families who do not otherwise have access to books in their community.  Our hope is to increase the number of bilingual books available and books discussing diversity. We currently partner with city libraries, collect private donations with a specific focus on BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, female writers, and large print. We access city and state cultural council grants funds as they are available and are currently assisting in ensuring our local LFLS are well supplied. 

Marianne McGinnis | Charlotte Public Library | Charlotte, TX 

Charlotte is a poverty-stricken, rural community of less than 2,000. Reading scores are far below basic. I am the sole librarian for the public library and would like to see a Little Free Library installed at the local community park. Many citizens use the park during the weekend and summer, and having a Little Free Library at the park would encourage the community to have access to books when the library is closed. Encouraging families to read to their children, or enjoy a novel or non-fiction book that they can enjoy, then return it and get another would be a blessing to the community. As the librarian, I have a good supply of books that I weed from the shelves as new books come in. The nearby Woman’s Club, which operates a thrift store, brings me books once or twice a month. I would like to encourage the community to fill the Little Free Library first, and then if there are leftovers, bring them to the library, where I will hold them until needed. My plan is to visit the park twice a week, Mondays and Fridays, to make sure the Little Free Library is stocked with a variety of books.

Marion Waldman | Teach My Kid to Read | Albany, NY 

At Teach My Kid to Read, we are committed to creating awareness and education about the science of reading so that parents, librarians, or anyone interested in literacy education, is empowered to help more kids learn to read. We do not all have to be literacy specialists, but we need to know the steps that lead to skilled reading and what comprises each step. We are a 501(C)(3) focused on working with libraries to help all kids learn to read through an understanding of books that help kids learn to pronounce the sounds in words. We would like to offer a little library in Albany, New York, a title 1 district, and use it as a model for some of our programming where we provide free books along with parent/caregiver support. I am hoping the library can be installed at one of the local playgrounds. 

Melissa Poland | Petros Joyner School | Oliver Springs, TN 

All schools in our rural community are Title 1 and all students receive free breakfast and lunch through NSLP. The library will serve adults and children in a community where many are living below the poverty level (22%). This library will be placed off the main highway where many people pass every day – located near our school sign, beside the parking lot for the community walking track in front of our school. This provides easy access for all, complete with parking, a safe walking area, and a covered seating area for those who choose to stay and read a while. Not only will this library impact our community by enhancing the academic effects of reading, (vocabulary, comprehension, etc) and social/emotional effects, (empathy, lowered stress/depression levels, etc), but will also provide free choice on books that intrigue them – encouraging them to read regularly outside of school – without being forced or held to a timeline. I will work with our school librarian, community members, the PTA, fellow educators, and other school supporters to supply books to the library. I teach at the school where the library will be located and will pass it every day as I enter/exit the building, so I am devoted to checking it weekly to ensure it stays well-stocked at all times. I am very excited about this opportunity to expand the minds of our citizens and cannot wait to implement this wonderful and unique resource in our community!

Nicole Ruark | Apartment Life | Orlando, FL 

Pendana is a community nestled in the heart of West Lakes in Orlando, FL. West Lakes is made up of 5 neighborhoods surrounding Camping World Stadium. These neighborhoods have long been rich in African American heritage, including many long-term residents who broke through the barriers of racial and economic inequality in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. These neighborhoods have also experienced inequity in public and private investments that support the well-being of residents. Pendana is an affordable mixed housing community that was born from a collaboration with a nonprofit, LIFT Orlando. They are working to uplift the voices of the West Lakes neighborhoods to realize a vibrant community redevelopment plan that unites housing, education, wellness, and economic opportunity to uplift this Orlando community. This library will serve as a resource to residents of all ages, aid in strengthening the community, and be a catalyst for change. We receive a monthly budget for community events and can be used to maintain the little library. We also have a network of nonprofits and community partners who invest in the neighborhood who we can set up donations with if they are interested in collaborating.

Norma Johnson | Hydetown Elementary School/Titusville Area School District | Titusville, PA 

Our area is very rural and poverty-stricken without a lot of choices for getting or purchasing books. We do have a local library, which is one resource, but most families need to travel or order online to get books. As a teacher, I also see the impact of the “summer slide” of regression of students who do not actively read over the summer. My plan is to get a Little Free Library up and running for the students, families, and community members of the Titusville Area. I have plans to incorporate activities to encourage the use of the library and the excitement of having a place to get books to read so close. The benefits of such a project would be tremendous and life-long. The parents, community members, and students will be able to read books all summer long and throughout the year to encourage skills in all areas of their lives. The plan is to have the library on the grounds of the school which I currently teach (permission for this has already been granted). I will be able to keep a close eye on the book availability on an almost daily basis. It is also not far from my home, so maintaining it over the summer will also not be a problem. I have many books of my own, new and used, to use to start the library and I plan to go to our local library to see if they have any books to donate for the library. I have plans to put in requests to a couple of local organizations, which are supportive of this type of project, to ask for donations or funds for the purchase of high-quality and diverse books of all levels. I am also developing plans to encourage the students of Hydetown Elementary to also donate their own gently used books to add to the library.

Sarah Swanson | Minneapolis, MN 

My home is in a community that is sometimes referred to as underserved. To me, it is a vibrant and lively neighborhood filled with amazing people. Many families may not have books in their homes. I also teach in the neighborhood, so I have relationships with many of the families and children who live in the neighborhood. Being a teacher, I have books that I have collected over the years that I would love to pass on. I would look forward to having conversations and literacy-building interactions with people who are interested in taking books. I look forward to providing texts that might help build literacy skills. I would look to include books that represent the people in the community as mirrors and also opportunities to learn beyond the community like windows. I own quite a few children’s books from being a classroom teacher. I have also purchased many books that I would love to pass on. I am an avid reader. I would also write grants for books, purchase books at thrift stores or pursue other options from friends and interested people.

Sheri Dean | Milwaukee High School of the Arts | Milwaukee, WI 

Milwaukee High School of the Arts is embedded in a diverse community; 49% White, 31% Black, and 10% Latinx. The average age of a resident is 22 years old. The average household income is $15,000. Fifty percent of the families live in poverty and the majority of families are renters. Students hail from all areas of the city and county to have a high school experience incorporating two hours of practice in one of five arts majors; visual arts, choral, orchestra, band, jazz, creative writing, dance, and theatre. The students at MHSA are community-focused young performers concerned with their Milwaukee community and fueled with a desire to serve. Currently, there is a student-made library box from ten years prior posted next to the school sign on Highland Avenue. The library box receives high exposure on the major thoroughfare. In the past, anything placed in the box was picked up within days. Unfortunately, it is rotted and has no door making it unusable for books. Student donations and books discarded from the school library will be used to maintain the book-sharing box. The librarian will train and supervise the Little Library program, recruiting students and training them to select discarded books, check the Little Library weekly and replenish it as needed. Students with intellectual disabilities will be paired with students in regular education to complete the refilling of the book-sharing box for a term. The Little Library would be a strong addition to the community and allow for a group of students to consistently offer another service to the community. The established book box has been highly used and would be again if the application is approved for MHSA.

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