Little Free Libraries Are Coming to Detroit Neighborhoods

Gale, a global education company, has partnered with Little Free Library and Brilliant Detroit to install 21 new free public libraries.

A recent influx of wooden, roofed structures on posts in lawns and street corners in Detroit neighborhoods aren’t giant birdhouses; they’re Little Free Libraries. 

Gale, part of the global education technology company Cengage Group, along with Brilliant Detroit and Little Free Library are installing 21 new mini libraries in high-need Detroit neighborhoods. 

Little Free Libraries are public bookcases in weather-proof boxes that allow neighbors to put out books and take them as often as they’d like — with no library fees or books on hold. The bookcases often feature artsy, personal touches and decorations. 

Detroit neighborhoods where the libraries will be placed include Banglatown, Cass Corridor, Chandler Park, Claytown, Cody Rouge, Cornerstone Village, Denby, Gratiot-Grand, Grixdale Farms, Islandview, Jefferson Chalmers, Littlefield, McDougall-Hunt, Mexicantown, Nortown, Russell Woods, Seven Mile Lodge and Warren Avenue Community Center.

These new Little Free Libraries will be stocked with some adult books and large print children’s books, donated by Thorndike Press (one of Gale’s publishing companies) to help striving readers. Large print books have been used as an intervention tool for improving literacy after researchers found it helps readers with tasks including decoding words and reading comprehension.

The libraries were built by Gale employees. The company has 500 employees globally with its main operations in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 

Brilliant Detroit, a nonprofit based in southwest Detroit, is a longtime supporter of young Detroit readers. The organization supports families in poverty through dozens of programs and initiatives as well as 313Speaks, a program designed to improve young children’s literacy development through a “talk pedometer” device. 

“We are excited to work with Gale to bring these Little Free Libraries to our Detroit neighborhoods,” said Cindy Eggleton, the co-founder and CEO of Brilliant Detroit, in a press release. “We believe that access to books is critical to building a strong foundation for literacy and education. 

“These Little Free Libraries will help make that a reality for families in our communities,” she adds. 

Detroit educators, nonprofits and families have worked for years to increase literacy rates. After the pandemic, that work got even more challenging, as schools at large saw drops in proficiency rates on state assessments. 

In the most recent M-STEP data from 2020-21, third graders were roughly 42 percent proficient in reading, a 3.5 percent decline from pre-pandemic scores. 

And while Little Free Libraries can’t fix these large scale challenges on their own, adding another reason to pick up a book can help.

“Partnering with Brilliant Detroit and Little Free Library is about making books accessible to build stronger communities and create a more equitable society that loves to read,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager at Gale, in a press release. 

 “We believe in the power and joy of learning and large print books are a proven literacy intervention resource that can be life changing for developing readers…these Little Free Libraries we built are a great opportunity for us to share the books with Detroit youth in hopes of turning reluctant readers into lifelong readers,” Gazzolo adds. 

The books were chosen based on multiple factors including diversity, popularity and critical reception. Stop by the new little libraries to find titles like “Genesis Begins Again”, “Lu”, “Patina”, “Sunny”, “Merci Suárez Changes Gears”, “Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry”, “See You in the Cosmos”, “The Night Diary”, “The House on Mango Street” and “Small Spaces”.

Gale has made a commitment to restock the libraries annually with books all readers will enjoy. 

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Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn is a freelance journalist, copy editor and proud Detroiter. She is a graduate of Wayne State University’s journalism school and of the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford University. Amanda is a lover of translated contemporary fiction, wines from Jura and her dog, Lottie.


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