Access Books Bay Area focuses on getting high-quality books into the hands of students in a variety of ways. The average family living in poverty in the Bay Area has few to no books in their home. Factors include the high price of books, inflation, limited access to transportation to be able to reach public libraries, and limited public library hours. For most children living in poverty, the school library is their main, if not sole, source of pleasure reading material. School libraries matter. However, Bay Area school libraries remain woefully underfunded, especially in schools serving a majority of children living in poverty. This is why the main focus of our work is improving school libraries in underfunded communities.
To complement this, we also have ongoing direct book distribution and little free libraries programs. Reading for pleasure, being able to choose your own books and immerse yourself in reading, creates readers. And readers have better outcomes across their lives, from academics onward. This is why we do the work we do, and why so many community members are inspired to work with us.
School Library Refurbishments
Each of our school library projects is at a Bay Area public school where roughly 80% of students are socio-economically disadvantaged. We select schools that have high need, as well as a readiness to partner with us to improve their library. The libraries have generally been neglected due to lack of funding, and are often full of tattered and outdated books, with a space that is cluttered and uninspiring. We work closely with the school to weed out the older books, tidy the space, and reorganize the books and furniture as needed. Often our project is a catalyst for the school to invest in needed repairs and upgrades to their library. We plan cheerful reading-related murals customized for the space. And most impactfully, we select and purchase a large collection of brand-new, high-interest, culturally relevant books to restock the library. Working together with dozens of volunteers who come together on a Saturday, we prepare the books for the library, and paint murals to transform the library. Finally, we provide improved signage and some additional furniture needed to make a welcoming and cozy space for reading.
Direct Book Distribution
Access Books Bay Area extends our reach beyond the school library through our direct book distribution programs. We currently partner with Amigos de Guadalupe, a non-profit that provides urgently needed services to families with children who are experiencing homelessness. These are students whose schooling is often interrupted, and lives are in flux. We provide book gifts to the children in their program for annual holiday Posada as well as their summer academic enrichment program. These students are among the most vulnerable, and we are proud to be able to provide them access to pleasure reading books.
Over the years we’ve conducted dozens of direct giveaways. During the pandemic we gave away thousands of books directly to children, in bundles of three books each, at meal distribution sites serving families living in poverty in some of the hardest hit areas of the region. We also have worked with Sacred Heart Community Service to give thousands of books directly to children as part of their holiday gift giveaways to families in need.
Little Free Libraries
During the Covid19 pandemic, Access Books Bay Area mobilized volunteers to build and install 41 Little Free Libraries in underserved communities throughout the Bay Area, which our volunteers continue to maintain. This program extends the services of the school library by providing 24/7 book access to children. In cooperation with the schools we work with, the majority of the boxes are located on school campuses and stocked with a variety of books, and replenished by our volunteers on a regular basis to keep kids reading! Our Little Free Libraries are extremely popular and children love to browse and select books that they can choose at any time.
We also have partnered with Little Free Library to bring the Read in Color program to San Francisco. Read in Color provides little libraries stocked with diverse books for children in communities of color.