For the love of literacy: Groups work together to overhaul, restock Little Free Libraries

Last Thursday, Oct. 27, the National Council of Jewish Women Cleveland (NCJW/CLE) held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy in Glenville to celebrate the installation of a new Little Free Library and the transition of NCJW/CLE now caring for and stocking the  76 Little Free Libraries around Cuyahoga County.  

Aaryn Matejcik-Krylon Senior Brand Manager with StudentsFor years the Kids’ Book Bank has been stocking and maintaining Little Free Libraries around Cuyahoga County—encouraging young people to grab a book and start reading.

The 76 Little Free Libraries spread throughout underserved areas of Cuyahoga County, says NCJW/CLE board member Debbie Joseph. She says as the Kids’ Book Bank has expanded in recent years, stocking and maintaining the libraries has become more difficult. So, NCJW Cleveland offered to take over the responsibility.

It’s no small charge to maintain these libraries—with volunteers stocking as many as 3,000 books a month around the country, as well as maintaining the boxes.

“They were happy to give them over to us and we were happy to take them,” she says, noting that literacy is part of the NCJW mission. “We took over filling the Little Free Libraries in 2020 when the pandemic started, and in June this year it became official.”  

With 66% of Cleveland adults testing as functionally illiterate, according to Seeds of Literacy, and two out of three Cleveland children have no books in the home, the Little Free Libraries are critical in encouraging area kids to read and, hopefully, reverse that trend.

The Little Free Libraries in Cuyahoga County have now been adopted by NCJW/CLE and, with partnerships with Krylon, a Sherwin-Williams brand, and CleveHome, a nonprofit that gives returning citizens a second chance, they will be regularly updated, maintained and cared for, so that every family in the community has literacy access to foster a love of reading.

Joseph says Krylon has committed to supplying spray paint on an annual basis, while Paul Fitzpatrick with CleveHome has already been repairing and maintaining the libraries. She says they have come up with a bracket system to remove the library box so Fitzpatrick and take it, repair it and return it.

While the idea behind the libraries and to take a book and then return it when someone is done reading it, Joseph says they expect, and encourage, people to simply take a book they’re interested in. She says often the libraries are emptied out quickly and need to be restocked.

She says it’s common to go through 3,000 books a month when replenishing the libraries. “We want to pump books into the community,” she says, adding that Krylon brought a box of books to place in the Roosevelt Academy library. “This was a full-circle community affair and I’m thrilled.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.