Lisa Lopez is the Librarian at Herrera Elementary School and the driving force behind the introduction of the Little Free Library to the El Paso area. She is the first person to erect one of these libraries in the state of Texas. Ms. Lopez installed two at Zavala Elementary, one inside and one outside of the school. She did so primarily because of federal government cuts to the Reading Is Fundamental program, which supplied free books for students. The introduction of the birdhouse library boxes is “a great initiative to highlight literacy, libraries, our campus, sharing, recycling, and enhancing a sense of community.”
These Little Free Library boxes are part of a global movement aimed at fighting illiteracy. It is estimated that there are about 12,000 libraries in 54 countries around the world. The concept behind the Little Free Library is simple: take a book and return a book. According to Ms. Lopez, the book exchange boxes give people a “sense of responsibility that they’re contributing to the betterment of their community.”
Neighborhoods, businesses, and organizations from all over the El Paso area have rallied in support of Ms. Lopez and the initiative. REFORMA, the Border Regional Library Association, Cinco Punto Press, and El Paso’s Parks and Recreation Department are only a few of the supporters of the literacy cause. Texas Women Infants and Children or WIC has installed the libraries in 15 of itsclinics. The El Paso Independent School District also contains about 40 Little Free Libraries across El Paso and San Elizario. Ms.Lopez has attracted the gratitude of the El Paso community and national attention with her determination to fight illiteracy.
As part of the UTEP Centennial Celebration, the English department unveiled its own Little Free Library in Hudspeth Hall on Friday, April 11. The Woodcutters Club of El Paso created the structure. It was painted by local Sunset Heights artist Ruben Valenzuela. Dr. Maryse D. Jayasuriya, associate professor in the English department, presided over the ceremony that introduced the Little Free Library. R. Joseph Rodriguez, assistant professor of the English Education Program, has stepped forward to be its steward. Dr. Rodriguez acquired the sponsorship of GECU and obtained books from publishing companies. Members of the English Department have also committed to supplying the initial books that stock the Little Free Library. Students can pick up copies of anything from William Shakespeare to Willa Cather, Charlotte Temple, and G.P. Taylor.
A former coworker of Ms. Lopez, Pamela Stover and her husband, Dr. Albert Wong are also involved in the campaign against illiteracy. Dr. Wong is a at professor at UTEP and the couple have been co-stewards of El Paso’s first outdoor Little Free Library.
In honor of National Library Week, the Special Collections Department has designed an exhibit highlighting the Little Free Libraries on the 2nd floor of the library. Students can view pictures and information of the literacy initiative that is bringing a new sense of purpose to the El Paso community.
Interview with Lisa Lopez
UTEP English Department
Little Free Libraries Multiply in EL Paso, Tx!, by Lisa Lopez, REFORMA http://www.reforma.org
Library Journal honors El Paso elementary school librarian, by Andrew Kreighbaum, El Paso Times http://www.elpasotimes.com
Lisa M. Lopez, Movers & Shakers 2013—Marketers. By LJ March 2013, Library Journal. http://lj.libraryjournal.com