Books in the hands of children improve literacy rates. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. In Native American and First Nation communities, book access is a challenge, as most do not have their own public libraries.
Little Free Library book exchanges are a wonderful way to provide easy access to books. Through the Indigenous Library Program, we grant no-cost Little Free Library boxes full of books to Indigenous communities with limited book access.
Goals of the Indigenous Library Program
Little Free Library grants no-cost book-sharing boxes where needed most on tribal lands and in Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada. We work with Indigenous community leaders and members to place book exchanges in locations where book access is important to improving literacy. Read about how this culturally responsive program began with the Native Library Initiative.
Through this program, Little Free Library aims to:
- Strengthen community
- Inspire readers
- Expand easy book access
- Support positive literacy outcomes
- Make Little Free Libraries available in high-need locations serving Indigenous Peoples
Those who grow up with books in the home tend to do better later in life … We want the community to see themselves reflected in the books they read and those visiting to learn more about Indigenous American cultures.Kaitlin Thompson
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation, Onamia, Minnesota
Get Involved with the Indigenous Library Program
Apply for an Indigenous Library Program Grant
Do you live in an Indigenous community? Are you part of an organization that serves or works with Indigenous communities? We invite you to submit an application to receive a Little Free Library, installation materials, and starter sets of books!
Support the Indigenous Library Program
We actively seek funders and partnership opportunities to make the Indigenous Library Program an ongoing success. Contact us if you’re interested in learning how to take part, become a partner, or provide financial support. If you’d like to help provide more little libraries to Indigenous communities, consider making a donation today. When you give, you can specify on our online donation form that you would like your gift to support the Indigenous Library Program.
Meet the Indigenous Library Program Advisory Group
An advisory group was formed to assist in the development of the Indigenous Library Program. Their experience with Little Free Library, as stewards of book-sharing boxes, and commitment to serving Indigenous peoples, have been invaluable in developing a culturally responsive and robust program.
- Audra Gooden, Igiugig Tribal Library Supervisor, K-12 Teacher
- Valerie Janis, Oglala Lakota College Woksape Tipi Library, Author
- Vicki Kurtz, Retired Teacher, Hoopa Valley High School
- Amanda LeClair-Diaz, PhD, Indian Education Coordinator, Fremont County School District #21
- Donovan Pete, Community Library Manager and Head Librarian
- Ashley Stanley, Parent and Community Cultural Resource Support, Kayenta Unified School District #27
- Margaret Wood, Little Free Library Board, Fiber Artist, Author
Many of our community members are in the throes of the poverty cycle: apathy, alcoholism, and drug abuse; however, many people are thriving and challenging our youth to become educated so they can walk in balance with both worlds that surround them … I want every home to have books. I want every child to have books to read at home. I want parents to read to their children. I want to increase literacy in general for all our community members.Vicki Kurtz
Little Free Library Steward and Program Grantee, Willow Creek, California
Insights from Window Rock, Arizona
Duane Yazzie is a teacher-librarian who set up the Navajo Nation’s first official Little Free Library. Below he shares his advice on how to successfully bring a Little Free Library to an Indigenous community.
1. Put a Team Together
“Part of our success is founded upon ensuring that we have partners in this initiative, and we are not doing this alone.” Yazzie partnered with local businesses and service organizations to strengthen their efforts. Civic leaders and dignitaries participated in the grand opening.
2. Be Patient and Creative in Overcoming Challenges
“Be prepared to exercise patience and understanding, especially when entering into formal agreements.” Getting approvals took Yazzie longer than expected. And something as seemingly simple as printing out a colored document can be daunting when tools and supplies aren’t immediately available.
3. Keep Everyone Informed
“Talking about the Little Free Library project with anyone and everyone has helped to both create interest and support.” Yazzie used every channel available, from face-to-face interactions to social media and local media. He also made presentations whenever there was an opportunity. “People get excited when you share your enthusiasm about the project.”
Yazzie also found that all the writing they did about the project helped to prepare them for letter-writing campaigns to community stakeholders and to answer questions they received about the project.
4. Ask for Help and Say Thank-you
“People are usually willing to help, but you’ve got to ask.” Ask for help—with book donations, maintenance, events, and other needs. And then make sure to honor what people are giving by expressing your appreciation.