Santa Ana First City in OC to Partake in Revolutionary "Little Libraries" Project

SanTana is a city with a library problem. Although the city's bookish staff is some of the nicest and most giving librarians in the county, the work for one of the most severely underfunded biblioteca systems in Southern California, with just one full-time library serving a population of far above 300,000.

But as Edison wrote, necessity is the mother of invention, so staffers got inventive--or, to be more precise, a library volunteer. "An idea came from one our TeenSpace meetings at the Santa Ana Public Library where one of our mentors, Nate Holsen heard about the Little Libraries project in Madison, Wisconsin," said Manny Escamilla, a Santa Ana Public Library's History Archivist. What's the Little Libraries project? Essentially a little house, constructed to order, filled with books and placed in random areas across the city for people to take and replace with others.

And now SanTana's the first in OC to have one, near a community garden in Jerome Park.

The SanTAna Public Libary's TeenSpace, a youth volunteering program, ran with the idea and applied for a Santa Ana Building Healthy Communites grant of $1,000 to build and put into concrete the project across the city. They eventually got funding for total of four little book houses, with the city's Parks and Rec Manager Gerardo Mouet providing funding for two more.
The Little Library project had its big breakthrough when John Spiak from the Grand Centeral Art Center connected Escamilla to Mathew Miller, who does most of the set up for GCAC projects. He helped teens build the houses by assisting in the carving and construction at the GCAC's workspace.

"We are painting them white because we want for the community to put their own art and messaging along with the cities' logo and from there, we are working on getting more" said Escamilla. 

The Little Libraries project, though seemingly inconsequential to outsiders, is crucial to a city like SanTana, where its general budget fund prioritizes its police department, leaving the city's working-class families living in a virtual library desert.

"It's up to the community as to what kind of books they want to leave and take," said Escamilla. "However, we will be on the lookout that there is no offensive material and we are encouraging people to donate bilingual books and children's book, because thats where literacy really begins." Escamilla urges donations for the project--you know, because of that whole underfunded thing.

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