HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — Like many of the characters featured in the books on its shelves, the Anti-Racist Little Library is thriving despite challenges.
That’s thanks to the generosity of neighbors who appreciated its value.
“The community response has been incredible,” library owner Kristin Berthiaume said.
Berthiaume and her family starting building the library this spring as racial tensions flared up across the country. They hung it on a wall near their home and stocked it with books featuring people of color and messages of racial equality. Then they invited people to leave books, take books and learn lessons from what they read.
“We want kids who come and look at the books to be able to see themselves represented in the books,” Berthiaume said. “And we also want adults to be able to learn how to work against racism.”
Soon, neighbors started showing up, and the impact of the literature was clear.
“We definitely heard people just say, ‘it was fun to be able to bring my child and see books that maybe we didn’t necessarily have at home already,'” Berthiaume said.
People were coming by regularly until last week, when Berthiaume drove by and made a sad discovery – that all the library’s shelves were empty.
“I was just completely stunned that every single book had been taken out,” she said.
She’s not sure what happened, but she assumes that someone didn’t like the library and took the books so the community couldn’t have them. So she posted a picture of the cleared-out cubbyholes on social media.
“Our hearts are a little broken,” the post read, with an explanation below of what had happened.
That’s when the community responded, commenting on the post and sharing it hundreds of times. The Berthiaumes posted a wish list on Amazon, and soon people from more than a dozen states and even British Columbia were sending the books by mail.
“It’s been really overwhelming and incredible how many people we’ve heard from,” Berthiaume said.
They also received money, which they used to buy more books at the Little Professor bookstore in downtown Homewood. Now the Anti-Racist Little Library is more well-known and more well-stocked. The family has enough books to refill the library if the books go missing again.
“It makes me feel like this is not just our little library anymore, but it’s really the community’s little library,” Berthiaume said. “And that is what we wanted in the first place. And this incident has really enabled us reach a much wider group of people.”
Berthiaume said several people around the community have asked her about creating their own Anti-Racist Little Libraries. She hopes to use some of her extra books to help start those.
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