“Libraries are one of the last remaining civic spaces open to the public,” declares CNN columnist Rachel Kramer Bussel. “They provide vital free services and are storehouses of information. In addition to allowing patrons to check out paper books (including large-print and out-of-print copies), ebooks, audiobooks, movies and music at no cost, libraries also offer free Internet access, career centers, and community programming. In many communities, librarians are on the front lines helping those who otherwise might slip through the cracks. At a time when struggling Americans are falling deeper into poverty and America’s wealth gap is growing, public libraries remain one of the only places where vulnerable people can connect with the resources to improve their lives.”
“I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be okay.”
Building a Library: One Reader at a Time
MaryJanesFarm has a wonderful way of reaching people wherever they live—rural, urban, suburban … and even around the globe. In 2010, we published a “readers write” article from Aimee Steiner, a reader living on a tropical isle over 6,000 miles from our farm. The tiny island of Rota, inhabited by only 3,000 people, is just 3 miles wide and 11 miles long and sits in the middle of the Northern Pacific Ocean atop the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans—1½ miles deeper than the highest mountain in the world. Aimee, who teaches English and lives on the island with her family, asked our readers for used books to restock the island library destroyed by a super typhoon. It was the perfect “call to action.”
“I had no idea that the response would be so extreme,” said Aimee. “In the beginning, a small number of boxes trickled in. But soon enough, the stunned postmistress would simply wave her hand toward the back of the post office whenever we rumbled up on the sandy road in our beaten-up, red pickup truck. Boxes and boxes of books flooded in from every part of the U.S., along with donations of art supplies, clothing, and other materials. (One reader, whose child is autistic, even had her daughter hand-make us hundreds of beautiful bookmarks!) Locals watched as we loaded 30 or 40 boxes of books into the back of our pickup truck nearly every day for months on end; the customs officials at the tiny airport were overwhelmed. Ultimately, the donations from MaryJanesFarm readers amounted to over 10,000 volumes. Today, thanks to your readers, Rota has a brand-new library brimming with beautiful books.
“The generosity of MaryJanesFarm readers is astonishing. Every single box shipped was a costly labor of love—I floated through the year on clouds of joy as the stunned recipient on the other end. On Rota, we run out of rice when the ship can’t get through the weather. We run out of gas when the tanker is delayed. We run out of power when the fragile generator changes its mind about working. But we never run out of books. You can now catch sight of a little child meandering through a sprawling mass of clucking chickens, book clutched tightly in hand, as if carrying a precious baby. Your gifts created not just a moment of pleasure, but rather a legacy that will be utilized for generations. On behalf of the island of Rota, I thank you for what amounts to a miracle of staggering proportions.”
Our Partnership with First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books, educational resources, and other essentials—including coats, snacks, and hygiene kits—to educators serving children in need. They also provide books and basic-needs items to disaster-affected areas. Through their award-winning distribution channel, the First Book Marketplace, they deliver resources to where they are needed most. We partnered with First Book by donating the proceeds from the sale of our magazine and book photo props.
Muster Your Literary Merit
Are you aware of the bevy of bibliophiles within our Sisterhood (FarmgirlSisterhood.org)? One of the sweetest perks of our Sisterhood membership is earning Merit Badges, and several badges are custom-made for those who are gung-ho for books. Take the Bibliophile Badge, for instance. To achieve Beginner Level, you sign up for a library card (if you don’t have one already), and then you use it with wild abandon to explore inter-library loans, study rooms, book signings, audio books, book clubs, free community classes, and (of course) a growing to-read pile of borrowed books. At the Intermediate Level, you challenge others to a reading contest and join (or start) a book club locally or via our Farmgirl Sisters Facebook group. Once you reach Expert status, you get to crown the winner from the book-reading challenge with a small party. Invite everyone to bring a copy of their favorite book for a swap. The Sisterhood offers other book- and library-related badges, too.
We have a lending library right here at the farm to help with your Merit Badges. Get the full lowdown on our Sisterhood and Merit Badges at FarmgirlSisterhood.org. You’ll also be challenged to build or buy your own Little Free Library that can be placed in your yard (or a friend’s) and filled with books—a true testament to your bibliophile commitment.
From over 75,000 registered DIY Little Free Library houses cropping up in yards and spaces across the nation to the resurgence of bookmobiles and book vending machines, to Dolly Parton’s efforts to stomp out illiteracy with her Imagination Library, to our ability to rebuild a library ruined by a typhoon, Americans have proven their love of books. And when that love of books translates into sharing books around the world, what could be better?
“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”