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New Little Libraries Bring Free Books, Black Voices To Aspen

Sep 4, 2020

Four new Little Free Libraries have popped up in Aspen that will be stocked with books by Black authors and anti-racist literature. Aspen Words partnered with Aspen Skiing Company and local advocacy group Roaring Fork Show Up to build and stock the new bookshelves. 

“It will be a really powerful way for the community to get outside of (readers) norm,” said Roaring Fork Show Up’s Sájari Simmons of the new book exchanges. “Once we get outside of our norm, we only become more curious, we only become more passionate about the next thing that we can educate ourselves on. It can start to be a catalyst for a community-wide conversation.”

"Once we get outside of our norm, we only become more curious, we only become more passionate about the next thing that we can educate ourselves on. It can start to be a catalyst for a community-wide conversation."

Little Free Libraries is a neighborhood book exchange that spans across the country and the Roaring Fork Valley. The idea is that when readers take a book, they replace it with another book. That’s still the program for Little Free Libraries around the Roaring Fork Valley, but organizers said that the emphasis for Aspen’s new book boxes will be to highlight diverse voices—even if readers don’t have a book to swap.

“We wanted to not have that be why someone didn’t participate if they didn’t have a book to leave,” explained Simmons.

Aspen Skiing Company donated a hundred copies of “Between the World And Me,” the 2015 nonfiction work by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for the new libraries. Skico picked the book for its summer-long community read, and handed out copies to employees as well as part of its efforts to advocate for racial justice in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd earlier this year. 

Aspen Words’s Managing Director Caroline Tory said that as time goes on, readers will find books for all ages that highlight Black authors across genres in the new boxes.

“We were thinking, ‘How do we lift up other books by Black authors and speak to the social justice issues that we want to be front and center in the community?’” Tory said. “This idea of the Little Free Libraries came up as a distribution point.”

Tory said Aspen Words pulled some books from their own collection to add to the new libraries’ shelves. Many of the chosen authors have connections to the local literary organization, like former writer-in-residence Chigozie Obioma, and Jericho Brown, a former Aspen Winter Words speaker who won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection of poems called “The Tradition” this year.

The new Little Free Libraries are located at Centennial Apartments, the Limelight Hotel, Francis Whitaker Park and Aspen Meadows. The City of Aspen provided financial support for the project, which covers two more Little Free Libraries that highlight Black authors. Aspen Words and Roaring Fork Show Up hope to install those two later this year.