Herrera Elementary librarian Lisa Lopez-Williamson is turning the pages on literacy one Little Free Library at a time.
Lopez-Williamson has been a key player in creating more than 130 Little Free Libraries, or LFLs, throughout El Paso. LFLs are small, often wood cabinets that serve as book exchanges in schools, libraries, parks and other public spaces.
Lopez-Williamson installed the first Little Free Library in Texas in 2011 when she was a librarian at Zavala Elementary School. The LFL there gave students more access to books and encouraged reading.
“I saw an article that said you could have a free book exchange anywhere, and I thought ‘I could totally pull this off at Zavala,'” Lopez-Williamson said. “The concept is pretty simple. You can take a book, but you must also leave a book. It’s a free book exchange based on the honor system.”
Lopez-Williamson received an LFL from co-founder Todd Bol, who created the non-profit organization to support the growing LFL movement.
“That is when it really took off,” Lopez-Williamson said. “Right now, we are at 134 Little Free Libraries here on the border.”
Lopez-Williamson writes grants and seeks donations to continue booking new LFL locations throughout the community. All LFLs have a charter number to track new libraries in the Little Library Network, which numbers more than 50,000 worldwide.
“If you browse the Little Free Library website you will see that you can find them in India, China, Japan, all over Europe and here in the states,” Lopez-Williamson said. “It’s a great way to share books and increase that sense of community. You’re giving something back to others.”
EPISD schools house 60 LFLs with most recently additions at Park, Rivera, Johnson, Nixon and Bonham elementary schools.
Every LFL is assigned a steward to help keep the library stocked and organized. At EPISD schools, librarians lean on students to ensure its success.
“There are always students that are willing to stay on top of it by making sure it is organized and that people are donating,” Lopez-Williamson said. “The students love them. They love to see other kids get excited about books.”
Second grader Isaac Teran enjoys checking out the Little Free Library at Herrera.
“It’s fun that you can get a book for free, and it’s nice you can put a book that you have from your house and give it to the Little Free Library so another kid can enjoy it,” Isaac said.
Each school puts their own special touch on their Little Free Library. Guerrero Elementary School dedicated its LFL to their librarian Mary Voight, who retired after more than 20 years at the school.
“The students like the idea about being able to share their books,” librarian Annette Schatzman said. “It really helps perpetuate the love of reading.”