Little Free Libraries Multiply in El Paso, TX!
Thursday, December 6, 2012
by: Lisa M. Lopez

Section: News Articles

December 2012

Lisa Lopez posing at the very first Little Free Library in a residential area.

Lisa M. Lopez is the school librarian at Zavala Elementary in El Paso, TX, MLIS graduate from the University of North Texas in 2010, and REFORMA member since 2008. Connect!

Zavala teacher guiding students on the Little Free Library design contest

Newman Park Little Free Library

Teachers, librarians, parents, students, EPPLA President and myself posing proudly.

Posing with Dr. Ivonne Chandler, University of North Texas faculty and TLA President at the BRLA Conference showcasing the Little Free Library movement.

Franklin College students built it and installed it.

As the official Little Free Library Ambassador of El Paso, TX, I have pledged to spread these free book exchanges across our border area. They have brought endless joy and bright smiles to our local communities.

Exactly a year ago, the Little Free Library movement commenced in El Paso, Texas, when Zavala Elementary established the very first in the border region. They came at a time when Reading is Fundamental (RIF) got slashed from the Federal government budget. Reading is Fundamental is a free book distribution and motivation program that gives free books to children who might not otherwise have any to call their own. It seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of such a wondrous literacy initiative that brought communities together, and instilled a love of reading, sharing, and recycling. It was the perfect project for a city that is known to have extremely low literacy rates. I am including the following link to convey the initiative’s success story in El Paso which originated at Zavala Elementary.
So far, builders have kindly donated approximately thirty beautiful Little Free Libraries...

Collaboration with local entities and the Little Free Library founders is what got the grassroots literacy movement going locally. The founders have sent me boxes full of the Little Free Library signs that depict the motto: “Take a Book – Return a Book,” which contain a charter number that gets registered through the nonprofit’s website for authenticity purposes. The El Paso Public Library Association (EPPLA) was very supportive and quickly enlisted the help of Tropicana Homes, Texas’ Home Builder of the Year, to donate unused materials to start building the little structures locally. With the donated lumber in hand, I solicited the help of the Woodworkers Club of El Paso and Franklin College. They volunteered to help in the building of Little Free Libraries, which keep building to this day, as there is a high demand for these birdhouse look-alike structures! KTSM even showcased the very first Little Free Library installed in a residential area that was built by Franklin College.

So far, builders have kindly donated approximately thirty beautiful Little Free Libraries which have gotten established at various locations throughout the Sun City. The primary places where these free book exchanges were installed are at schools within the El Paso Independent School District’s school libraries. One of the most renowned Little Free Libraries in town is one that was donated to the Byrd family, owners of Cinco Puntos Press. They then decided to donate it to a city park but it took some doing to first convince the city of El Paso’s Parks and Recreation Department of the value of such an  initiative. It took months to get their approval, but in October of 2012, the board approved the installation of the first LFL at Newman Park. This was on the condition that the neighborhood association would actively care for it; ensuring books reside in it constantly. We hosted the grand opening for it recently, and it was a true success. A myriad of news groups showed up to interview all who were involved in making it happen.

Newman Park Association You Tube
KTSM News Article
KFOX News Article

Other outreach literacy efforts I recently attempted were donating an authentic LFL to the Sunland Park, New Mexico community since their one and only city library closed due to budgetary cuts. In addition, the Border Regional Library Association (BRLA) conference was a wonderful venue to promote the initiative at. I was even able to raffle a LFL for a lucky librarian! Also, the President of the El Paso Public Library Association (EPPLA) arranged a Zavala LFL design contest, where the winners and their families were invited to paint three LFLs built by the Zavala P.E. coach. The event took place at a local park and they were provided with pizza, drinks, dessert, smocks, paintbrushes, and paint. The colorfully painted LFLs were then donated to local school libraries and an apartment complex. It was a true success! Please see photos below of the design contest, BRLA conference, and Sunland Park Little Free Library.

Last but not least, the city of El Paso’s Public Health Department showed great interest in installing these book exchanges at all fifteen of their Women Infant and Children Clinics (WIC) across the border area! As supply and demand kept increasing, I worked out a deal to donate several little libraries for this extensive city project which ultimately benefits low socio-economic families. We celebrated their grand openings recently and once again, the local news casts showed up to highlight the literacy initiative’s benefits in increasing awareness on the power of reading, sharing and recycling books. Once again, I am sharing a nicely written article published by the El Paso Times on these efforts and the city’s press release pdf.

All in all, I can sincerely say that if it weren’t for professional library associations such as REFORMA, these outreach literacy efforts would not have been possible. REFORMA gave me the confidence to believe that I could help to bridge the information, literacy, and technology gaps amongst Spanish speaking communities. Mil gracias por todo, REFORMA!

1st WIC clinic Little Free Library user

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