Nwamaka Unaka has read a book to her daughter every night since the day she was born. One night they were watching a YouTube video together about Little Free Library and her daughter asked if they could start their own for their Houston, Texas, neighborhood. She had planned to create the library as a spring break project, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“I hesitated to move forward with our ‘Reading is Magical’ Little Free Library #97058, but decided it was much more important to do it now,” she says. “Libraries are closed. Schools are closed. Extracurricular activities that individuals of all ages are used to engaging in are all closed. However, reading is indeed so magical that it can transport you to another world. We wanted to provide an outlet and much-needed resource for our community.”

This post is part of our Steward Spotlight series that showcases the diversity of steward experience around the world. We asked Nwamaka to share her experience starting and maintaining a Little Free Library book exchange.

Did you and your daughter build the library?

“We didn’t build it from scratch. We purchased it from a builder online. But we did paint it ourselves and add a unicorn doorknob. My daughter selected the colors!” Note: if you’d like to purchase a Little Free Library online, there are dozens of pre-built libraries and kits available in our online store.

What type of books do you stock?

“We are stocking books for all ages and reading levels! We started an Amazon wish list for our Little Free Library and have shared it with our community of neighbors. When we were getting started, we created a GoFundMe as a way to raise funds and in less than 48 hours had raised $1,700. Every month I use the money from our GoFundMe to order a few of the books from the wish list and receive some of them for free from authors and community members who already own them. Neighbors can freely add books to the list. In addition, people have graciously dropped off books for all ages to my home. I intentionally ensure that our library has books for children and adults in it at all times.”

What do you hope the library will do for the community?

“I hope it will be a vital resource for community members to continue to have access to books so they can nurture their literacy skills and build a love of reading. I believe that everyone deserves access to books regardless of their ability to purchase them on their own. Lastly, I hope it makes our community stronger. I hope people develop new friendships and a greater sense of belonging from using it.”

Do you have any tips or advice for other stewards?

“I would advise stewards to think outside of the box. While you may primarily use it for books, also consider special projects. We recently placed ‘My 2020 Covid-19 Time Capsule’ packets in our library.”

Are you ready to join the world’s largest grassroots book-sharing movement? Learn how to start a Little Free Library or browse dozens of free library plans and blueprints. 

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