“Gibsonton Elementary is a public school, located on the main road through town. The neighborhood matches the school in socioeconomic status as a very low-income (95% + at or below poverty) community. The families and community members are in a literacy desert. As a school we try to give away books every quarter, but we are only reaching our 600 students, and the community is lacking reading materials, which makes it hard to model and encourage reading in our students as they rarely see any form of reading in their homes. Thank you for selecting us as part of your 2019 Impact Library Program.  I can’t tell you how much of a blessing this has been for our school, our students, our families, and the community.” – Catherine Gilmore

The library was installed in Gibsonton, Florida in September, 2019. We checked in with Catherine to learn more about how the library is serving the community and get her tips for new stewards.

Tell us about your community and how it benefits from your Little Free Library. 

My school community is 96% free or reduced lunch rate. Many of our students live in homes where literacy resources are scarce! When a study was done, we found that on average households in our community have one book. One! We’re changing that! Every week we give away almost 100 books. Yes, ONE HUNDRED BOOKS! It’s all about location. Students and families can stop by the Little Free Library on their way in and on their way home. The library is located on the main road in our city so passersby can also stop in to see what books are available.

What motivated you to start a Little Free Library?

Literacy is my passion. I’ve taught students for years how to read. The struggle has always been having materials for them to practice their skills with. Having access to books of interest is key in developing a love of reading. Being able to provide this resource to our community is a blessing. There is no way I can wrap in words the impact this has on our community.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in starting a Little Free Library?  

Trying to make sure the selection of books we offer is diverse. We try really hard to make sure books going IN to the LFL are diverse, but they are quickly scanned and selected from. We try to only stock the LFL in the mornings, so the drawback is those who are looking for a specific book in the evenings might struggle.

What has surprised you the most since you started a Little Free Library?

That we are sending out so many books into our community. I really didn’t think the interest would be so high! As an extra gift, I love providing a place where students can share their own books with new people. Many of our students seek me to share that they are donating books to the LFL. 

What’s your favorite moment/story that happened because of your little library?

Seeing students bring back a book they enjoyed reading and telling me all about it! When students know you value their reading time, and the effort they take to select a book, they will come back to you to share their adventures. I love being able to recommend books for them. I’m thankful that I have a stash of books to share with them!

Do you have any advice for other people interested in starting a little library in their communities?

Always remember WHY you started your LFL. The love and passion for reading is a gift we should all embrace in others.

In communities where books are scarce, a little library can have a big impact. Learn how to start a Little Free Library, or check out our Impact Library Program to learn more about how you can help improve book access for communities in need.

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