Native Library Initiative

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 Native American cultures.

Kaitlin Thompson
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation, Onamia, Minnesota


Through our Impact Library Program we provide no-cost little libraries where they’re needed most. Our Native Library Initiative is a branch of this program, focused on placing impact libraries in Native communities.

In 2018, Little Free Library began this pilot project to increase book access on tribal lands with generous support from Amerigroup/Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. We also partnered with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries & Museums (ATALM), hosting a Little Free Library build at the 2018 ATALM conference.

So far, a total of 69 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes have been placed on tribal lands. We aim to continue bringing little libraries to areas where books are scarce. If you know of a Native community that needs increased access to books, please encourage them to apply to our Impact Library Program.

There is a Growing Literacy Crisis in the U.S.

Today, more than 30 million adults cannot read or write above a third-grade level. In Native communities, the statistics are even more alarming, with Native youth regularly posting the lowest reading achievement scores in the nation.

Books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. In tribal communities, book access is a challenge, as most do not have their own public libraries.

Little Free Library book exchanges are a great vehicle for areas without easy access to books. We are proud to work with Native community leaders to establish little libraries and improve book access for all.

Opportunities for Native Communities

Our goal is to expand this project across tribal lands. We are actively seeking funders and partnership opportunities to make the Native Library Initiative an ongoing success.

Success Stories from Native Library Initiative Recipients

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, Willow Creek, California

Our Little Free Libraries (four in total) are all … served by the Window Rock Unified School District. We established [these libraries] to celebrate and encourage a love of reading among community members and visitors to our area. Essentially, we want to positively and meaningfully impact and transform lives and our surrounding communities. It has reawakened a love of reading among various community members young and old.

Duane Yazzie
Little Free Library Steward, Window Rock, Arizona

Insights from Window Rock, Arizona

The following notes summarize advice received from Duane Yazzie, a teacher-librarian who set up the Navajo Nation’s first official Little Free Library.

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 LFL 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.

Please Support the Native Library Initiative

If you are interested in learning more about how to participate, partner with us, or provide financial support, please contact us.

Please consider making a donation today. Your gift to Little Free library will be immediately put to use to provide little libraries where they are needed most. Donate now!

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