Little Black Library: Shaping Communities Through Accessible Representation

Image of "Little Black Library" Display in at the Lansing Public Library (IL)

A young Black girl enters her local public library. Her eyes dart between shelves, scanning for picture books that excite her. Book after book, she searches for a main character who looks like her. The problem is, these aren't always easy to find. She doesn't know that there are more picture books with main characters that are animals (30%) than there are main characters that are Black (12%). Meanwhile, white main characters remain center stage (42%). So, how do we make sure that Black children, teens, and adults alike are finding books about people who resemble them?

The answer: Little Black Library.

The non-profit was founded in 2020 by Harvard graduate Cathy Chukwulebe, who aimed to bring books about anti-racism and the Black experience to cities across the country. Beginning with ten locations, the "Little Black Libraries" could be found in coffee shops, hospitals, and even street corners. Since then, the non-profit has expanded greatly, to now include a website, online interactive bookshop, and public library locations.

Launched during Black History Month of 2021, the location at the Lansing Public Library in Lansing, IL was the first "library within a library." The display (pictured above) features memoirs, social commentary, history, poetry, children's books, and novels. The display will be available year-round.

The goal of Little Black Library is to provide access to books for all ages about the Black experience. By creating a display on anti-racism, featuring everything from children's literature to Black history books, LBL places Black authors and their voices at the forefront. This way, everyone will have somewhere to go to read, learn, and discuss important topics.

Over the past few months, Little Black Library has begun the process of expansion into public libraries. Seeing as most public libraries value diversity, equity, and representation highly, they're a wonderful place to expand our mission.

Each public "LBL" is created by following a few easy steps:

  1. Email us at littleblacklibraries@gmail.com to request a location in YOUR library.

  2. We will mail you a kit, including access to our materials (flyers, posters, and resources) as well as a comprehensive list of the titles in OUR Little Black Libraries.

  3. Your staff can pull the books you already have in your collection, and set up your Little Black Library Display. (We'll even throw in a free banner!)

For more information on how to get involved:

Jadyn Newman

Little Black Library Board Member

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