There are more than 50 Little Free Libraries across Greater Cleveland, but the area’s latest addition hopes to inspire conversations that will spark change.
The Little Free Diverse Library is a green box that sits on the corner of Marlowe and Franklin in Lakewood, housing titles that uplift and recognize the stories of groups traditionally underrepresented in literature.
Lizzie Ackerman and Ryan Coffey, first time homeowners, knew they could use their home to make change — even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally from Cleveland, Lizzie spent five years in Boston but recently moved back to the area with her family.
“The neighborhood we lived in in Massachusetts had tons of Little Free Libraries,” says Ackerman. “My husband and I loved to use them. When we moved to Lakewood and became homeowners, it was our first chance to have control over our property and to make one of our own.”
The couple decided to support the Little Free Diverse Libraries project, started by New York public school teacher Sarah Kamya. While staying in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 quarantine, Kamya began collecting funds to purchase books written by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and shipping them to Little Free Libraries.
Since starting in Arlington, Massachusetts, the project has now spread to all 50 states– with Lakewood’s Little Free Diverse Library as one of the latest additions.
“We have a two-year-old daughter, and we’ve found that a lot of mainstream or classic literature often doesn’t have the diversity that is represented in this country and around the world,” says Ackerman. “We just wanted to provide a platform for those voices that have so often been underrepresented– in both books for children and books for adults.”
The little green box is full of plenty of diverse voices from stories across the spectrum, including those of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, cultural and ethnic minorities, people of various abilities, religious backgrounds, and more.
“Our definition of diversity became very broad; we wanted to include everything from differences in race, religion, culture, sexuality, even highlight mental health issues,” Ackerman notes. “We believe reading about those who are different than you cultivates respect, compassion, and empathy for everyone, and that’s what we want to encourage.”
To help support the library, Ackerman started a GoFundMe to allow her to purchase books for the community and has since raised more than $700, making it possible to launch the library with 86 books. Some of the library’s first titles included Pink Is For Boys, The New Jim Crow, The Hate U Give, Antiracist Baby, ABC, What an Informed Voter You’ll Be and All Kinds of Families.
They recently launched an Instagram account where the library’s latest books are posted.
The Ackerman family hopes that this library sparks conversations among their neighbors, allowing the community to have access to voices that may differ from their own. Their goal is that those who take books from the Little Free Diverse Library pass them onto others to continue sharing important voices.
To support the library’s book collection, you can make a donation via GoFundMe.