Little Free Library Announces Indigenous Library Program

By Sarah Nelson

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Indigenous Library Program, which grants Little Free Library boxes and books where needed most in Indigenous communities and on tribal lands in the United States and Canada. Working with Indigenous community leaders and members, we provide book-sharing boxes to locations where book access is key to improving literacy and igniting a love of reading.

The initiative is led by LFL Program Manager Talia Miracle (Ho-Chunk tribe of Winnebago) and supported by an advisory group that includes Valarie Janis of the Lakota College Woksape Tipi Library (Bay Mills Anishinaabe), LFL national board member and fiber artist Margaret Wood (Navajo and Oklahoma Seminole), and others who belong to or serve Indigenous communities:

  • A.J. Gooden, Igiugig Tribal Library, Supervisor
  • Vicki Kurtz, Retired Teacher, Hoopa Valley High School
  • Amanda LeClair-Diaz, PhD, Language, Reading, and Culture and Teaching and Teacher Education
  • Donovan Pete, Navajo Nation Library, Director

“Little Free Library book-sharing boxes on Indigenous land in the U.S. and Canada can be significant to enhancing the education of Indigenous students and residents,” said Wood. “Indigenous reserves and reservations are huge ‘book deserts’. There are few tribal libraries and usually that means one for the entire reserve/reservation…. Having access to books year ’round will be a game changer for residents of Indigenous lands.”

The 125,000th Little Free Library was granted to the Wind River Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyoming.

The Little Free Libraries and books are granted through an application process, with priority given to organizations and individuals with long-term ties to Indigenous communities. In recent years, LFL has granted libraries to Indigenous communities via its general Impact Library Program, and previously through a Native Library initiative. Today’s Indigenous Library Program launch initiates an expanded commitment to making Little Free Libraries available in high-need locations serving Indigenous people.

“We are aiding in literacy efforts within our communities one book at a time,” said Janis, a 2023 Todd H. Bol Award winner who stewards 11 Little Free Library boxes placed throughout the vast Pine Ridge Reservation. (It takes Janis two five-hour days of driving to check and fill each of the boxes.) “The libraries that I am a steward of have opened doors to storytelling and imagination, as well as other cultures and communities by providing books that cover a variety of topics,” she added. 

INLP Program Manager Talia Miracle with Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan at the National Congress of American Indians Annual Conference at Mystic Lake June 6-8, 2023.

Reading Native Voices

Studies show that book access is vital to improving literacy, and reading culturally relevant books can be equally important. The Indigenous Library Program grant packages come with two starter sets of books: one with 25 BIPOC-centered titles and the other with 25 books specifically focused on the Indigenous experience

“Story and storytelling have always been honored and celebrated by the Indigenous peoples of this continent, but only now are our children and teens seeing young heroes like themselves respectfully reflected in books,” said author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), curator of the Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books. “We couldn’t be more delighted that Little Free Library is welcoming our kids into the world of readers by making available an excellent array of resonant, page-turning titles to be shared with Native families and communities.”

The launch of a Little Free Library at White Earth, which was granted through the Indigenous Library Program.

How to Get Involved

Talia Miracle, LFL’s Indigenous Library Program manager,  invites everyone to participate in the launch. “Together we can create much-needed book access in Indigenous communities and celebrate books about the Indigenous experience,” she said.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Apply for an Indigenous Library Program grant if you live in or serve an Indigenous community in the U.S. or Canada.
  2. Support Indigenous readers by making a donation to the program.
  3. Share books by Indigenous authors in Little Free Libraries; find one near you with LFL’s mobile app.
  4. Enter the giveaway to receive a selection of Indigenous titles generously provided by Heartdrum and HarperCollins; or a gift basket from Birchbark Books, an Indigenous bookstore owned by author Louise Erdrich.
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