Little free libraries are public bookcases that allow people to rent and return books as they please. The Little Free Library movement started more than a decade ago and has grown into a global effort, with more than 100,000 libraries in more than 100 countries.
In early 2020, Sarah Kamya, a New York high-school counselor, started filling her local little libraries with books by black and brown authors. She then began shipping hundreds of diverse books to little libraries across the country — catalyzing the Little Free Diverse Library movement.
Hawaiʻi FEAST and Greener Reader recently teamed up bring Little Free Diverse Libraries to Honolulu. Working with local businesses and artists, we have installed three libraries at ARS Cafe, Mud Hen Water, and da Shop, with plans to expand in 2021. While the libraries are outside and available to the public, partnering businesses help keep watch over the library structures. As part of this project, local artists are provided stipends so they can paint the libraries with murals that embody the themes of race and equity.
The libraries are initially and periodically stocked with books and stories that provoke conversations on race and equity, primarily from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors. The books are primarily purchased from local book stores Nā Mea Hawaiʻi and da Shop. Our book list has been made publicly available online here.
why we’re doing it
Build Public Discourse on Race & Equity
Communities across the United States are grappling with how to address systemic racism and equity disparities. As activist Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” Engaging in literature and artwork that showcase the experiences of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds can be a useful tool in better understanding different perspectives and dismantling the biases people have towards one another. At the core of this project, Hawaiʻi FEAST and Greener Reader seek to contribute to the discussion on race and equity by sharing the work of BIPOC authors through ‘little free libraries’ and public murals.
Moreover, public spaces—parks, streets, and courtyards—have always been powerful arenas for democratic action, protests, and public discourse on these important topics. We hope the little free libraries and murals created for this project will not only improve the sense of place within the communities they are implemented, but will also serve as a visual memorialization to the ways in which these communities are grappling with issues of race and equity.
Improve the Built Environment
Artists have an important role in improving the physical and social fabric that holds communities together. It has been well documented in urban planning studies that public artwork, and public murals in particular, improve a neighborhood’s economic wellbeing and provide residents with a greater sense of place.
Enhance Artist Resources
Despite the vital need for art, the creative community in Hawai‘i often lacks the fiscal resources to implement projects on a scale that is visible to the public. This project will provide Hawaiʻi FEAST and Greener Reader the opportunity to work with artists to strengthen their story-telling capacity and provide them with the financial resources to implement public art that benefits the people of Hawaiʻi.