Lawrence group putting on book drive to fill Little Free Libraries with works by Black, Indigenous and other writers

photo by: Lauren Fox

Tyler Lindquist, left, and Demetrius Kemp are part of a team putting on the READ Lawrence book drive. READ Lawrence, which stands for Race Education And Development, is seeking to distribute books by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) authors to Little Free Libraries across Lawrence and to the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

Little Free Libraries across Lawrence will soon be getting some new additions through a project called the READ Book Drive.

READ stands for Race Education And Development, and the book drive aims to collect and distribute books written by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) authors on subjects relating to the experiences of BIPOC people.

The idea started after Demetrius Kemp posted on social media that he had purchased books related to Black history to give out to kids who needed something to read while stuck at home.

Kemp is a security guard at Free State High School, and he said that high school students understood what’s going on with race relations in the country. But he wondered, “How do we explain this to smaller kids that don’t get this?”

Kemp’s friend, Tyler Lindquist, saw Kemp’s post and came up with the idea to continue collecting books about BIPOC experiences through a book drive, and to distribute those books throughout Little Free Libraries across Lawrence.

In early July, Kemp, Lindquist, Dena Johnston, Jackie Zensen and Mandy Denton — all alumni of the Leadership Lawrence program — teamed up to create the drive. The group decided that in addition to the Little Free Libraries, some of the donated books would be given to the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

The book drive began on July 24 and will end this Sunday, Aug. 9. The team is asking for donations of new or gently used books by BIPOC authors relating to the experience of BIPOC people.

To donate, people may drop off books at Explore Lawrence, Royal Crest Lanes or Solomon and Associates during the organizations’ regular business hours. People may also message the team on their Facebook page, READ Book Drive, to either schedule a time for contactless pickup or to receive an address to which they can send a book through the mail.

People may also donate by contacting the book drive’s retail partners: The Dusty Bookshelf, The Raven Book Store and Signs of Life. These new and used book stores will help people purchase and donate books for the drive.

Kemp said the team has already received about 30 books via donations. The original goal was 100. But Kemp said that based on the number of books he has been purchasing and collecting, “I’m going to put 100 books in there myself.”

“I want to fill every one of those up,” Kemp said of the Little Free Libraries across town. Kemp said that so far the majority of books they have are geared toward younger readers, but he hopes to also collect books for teen and adult readers.

Kemp has been documenting where the Little Free Libraries are in Lawrence and said he has identified about 50 so far. Kemp also hopes to build about 10 to 15 more Little Free Libraries to put up in North Lawrence and East Lawrence.

photo by: Lauren Fox

The Little Free Library outside 642 Louisiana St.

Lindquist said all the books would be quarantined for seven days before being distributed back out into the community later this month.

Johnston, one of the team members, is the executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation, which is one of the program’s community partners, in addition to Leadership Lawrence, Lawrence Public Library and University of Kansas Libraries.

Johnson said the mission of the Lawrence Schools Foundation was to provide resources to enhance learning and that the foundation was always seeking to work with community partners. The books that will be given to the Lawrence Schools Foundation will in turn be distributed to school libraries or individual classrooms.

If someone would like to make a cash donation to the READ Lawrence book drive, Johnson said that could be made through the Lawrence Schools Foundation and that they can ensure the money would be directed to the appropriate area.

Each of the donated books will include a library card on which users can add their name to the list of readers, and participants are asked to use the hashtag #READLawrence to post their thoughts and ideas about what they’ve read.


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