Amy Thiessen started a GoFundMe page on July 21 to purchase books from black and indigenous owned bookstores for the free libraries across the province. (Contributed)

Pitt Meadows woman adding diversity to Little Free Libraries across B.C.

Amy Thiessen started a GoFundMe page to purchase books by black and indigenous authors

A Pitt Meadows woman wants to see more stories reflecting diverse backgrounds in Little Free Libraries across the province.

Amy Thiessen started a GoFundMe page on July 21 to purchase books from black and indigenous owned bookstores for the free libraries, little wooden boxes located in different communities where people can take and leave books at no cost.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that started in the United States 11 years ago and is now in 100 countries worldwide, including Canada. The mission of the organization is to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges.

There are currently 197 Little Free Libraries across B.C. registered through the organization, including one in Pitt Meadows and three in Maple Ridge.

Thiessen was inspired by Sarah Kamya, an American woman who spearheaded a Little Free Diverse Library project to purchase books written by black authors from black-owned bookstores for her own library and others around her community. Kamya also created a Wish List account at Amazon.

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Thiessen first discovered Little Free Libraries when she wrote a story about them when they were first emerging.

Now, the 30-year-old said, they can be discovered all over the place.

“There is actually one about two blocks from my house, but it’s not chartered because you can actually have them without being licensed through the site,” Thiessen explained.

So far Thiessen has raised $205 of her $1,000 goal and has been able to purchase 29 books that she distributed to 10 free libraries across the Lower Mainland including the one in Pitt Meadows, and in Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Burnaby and New Westminster.

Her mother, who lives in Penticton, has purchased an additional 10 books for free libraries in that community.

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“I wish we could do more, but books are expensive and you want to make sure you pay tribute to the people that wrote them. It’s takes time and effort,” she said.

Thiessen believes it is important to share books that reflect the diversity of Canadian communities and bring to light the fact that multiple cultures live here.

“It’s really important for them to have that representation and to know that there are stories that represent them and look like them. They are not an outcast,” she said.

The GoFundMe is set up for people to donate who don’t know what books to purchase. Or people can check out the Amazon Wish List curated by Kamya.

A contact in Toronto will be sending Thiessen a list of indigenous authors and stories that will also be added to the Amazon Wish List.

But, Thiessen said, people shouldn’t feel compelled to go through her. If there is a Little Free Library in their area, they can add books to them by themselves.

“If they have indigenous-authored books or black-authored books, they should totally feel empowered because this is not a one-person job by any means, it’s a community’s job,” said Thiessen.


 

cflanagan@mapleridgenews.com

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