Little Free Libraries in Todos Santos

BY: MARLA O'BRIEN

Access to literature, be it fiction or nonfiction, is a key determinant of literacy. According to LittleFreeLibrary.org, children who grow up with books at home are on average up to three years academically behind those with many books.

Increasing literacy and access to reading material is the goal behind the Palapa Society’s latest project - creating three little free libraries around Todos Santos. Each little free library is a box containing 20 or more books, for both children and adults in both English and Spanish, that are available for anyone in the community to borrow.

“Take the books,” gushes Donna Schultz, head of the Palapa Society’s community library and the project’s coordinator. “If you have one to leave, great, but if not our whole intention is just to get books into the hands of those that don’t have them.”

She cites the example of a book about dealing with cancer written in Spanish.

“Likely our library members, primarily English speakers, wouldn’t take out this book. But out in the community, someone could really use it,” she says.

The little free library is a popular worldwide concept where individuals or groups create and maintain neighborhood book exchanges. There are thousands registered with the nonprofit organization LittleFreeLibrary.org. Though inspired by the charity, the Todos Santos’ little free libraries are not registered due to the extra costs required to do so.

Schultz got the idea to create the community borrowing boxes from a library member from Denver, and it took three months for the project to go from dream to reality.

First Schultz had to get approvals from the municipality and police to erect the boxes in public locations. Then lumber was bought to build the boxes, the only hard costs involved in the project. The rest was all volunteer effort. Greg Thomas built them, Raye Schmucker painted them with whimsical designs using her own paint, and Walter Schultz and Richard Oakland dug holes to cement the boxes in place. All books and materials in the boxes came from donations.

The locations of the three little free libraries in Todos Santos are Los Pinos park next to the bus depot, at La Esquina restaurant, and the Padrino Childen’s Foundation on Calle Cuauhtemoc.

“They are already proving to be an overwhelming success,” Schultz says. “One was emptied out within days and needed to be restocked.”

The librarian has already received a request to install one in Pescadero and hopes to have it in place by fall.

But her most pressing current priority is coordinating the library’s next big fundraiser, the Saturday Night Fever party at Gallo Azul pizza bar on Saturday, March 21. Attendees will enjoy a dinner and discoing the night away for $800 MXN. An original glass mosaic table created by Cate Thomassen valued at $1100 US will be raffled off at the event. All proceeds will be put towards the library’s new book fund.

Tickets for the party and raffle items are available at the Palapa Society library, known as the Biblioteca Elena Poniatowska, on Calle del Huerto during their open hours, Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 1 PM.

Also feel free to stop by the library to donate your gently used books or simply add them to a little free library box.

“We would really like to receive more books in Spanish and children’s books so we can stock up our little free libraries for the community,” explains Schultz.