Going Full Woke: Little Free Library “Re-Orients”

“We’re known for being on White suburban lawns. We’ve had to re-orient our mission to meet the moment.” --Greig Metzger, @LtlFreeLibrary Executive Director

Thus speaketh a man who, according to a press release announcing his appointment to his current position, is a Princeton University graduate, with an AB in economics, and an MBA from New York University in finance. He categorizes himself on his LinkedIn page as an, “Organizational Change Catalyst.” He is middle-aged and white. And, rather than resign his job so that a person of color or a woman can take it and help himself or herself to all the perquisites such as retirement benefits connected thereto, Mr. Metzger has decided that it is imperative that something as previously anodyne as a Little Free Library box become a venue for race-baiting and other left-wing agitprop.

This is a problem not only for the Little Free Library as an organization, but for the whole idea of literacy programs and access to books in general.

Why? Because Metzger and the white liberal establishment that he personifies, together with Big Philanthropy and the liberal activists once known as “librarians,” are no longer interested in books per se. They are interested in disseminating a certain kind of book. To wit, books heavy on the theme of how oppressive white, heterosexual society is, and how every white person is at a minimum “privileged,” and probably a “supremacist.”

Think I am exaggerating? Well, come along with me and we’ll explore a few of the books that Metzger and his colleagues are pushing into the hands of children across the country.

By now, most people in the United States have seen one of the now thousands of Little Free Library boxes across the country. Some of them are charmingly quirky in design or endearingly ineptly constructed. Some even have little nightlights, the better to serve early morning or late-night joggers or lonely people out for an evening’s constitutional. They usually contain a mixture of battered, schlocky novels, self-help books, mysteries, memoirs by politicians (Obama et al.). I live in a liberal university town so tend not to see anything remotely conservative in the many boxes here. Ben Shapiro is not big here in blue-as-can-be Oregon, for example.

Oftentimes, the Little Free Library is not particularly well-maintained. The books are often left for days slumped over in a forlorn state of neglect, with quite a bit of space left in the box for books (though rarely, it seems, are books added). The point seems to have been the construction of the Little Free Library itself as a way for a well-meaning, civic-minded person to signal to his or her neighbors, “Hello! I am an open-minded person. I think literacy is a good thing. I think libraries are wonderful. I have spent several hundred dollars and may have gone to some trouble to obtain a permit from the local authorities to provide you with the opportunity to peruse dog-eared paperbacks and repair manuals for devices I no longer even own. I am a virtuous, generous citizen.”

So far, so innocuous. As I say, there are many of these little structures in my town and, probably, in yours. Who could object to such a harmless project? “You are just one of those carping conservatives bent on waging a culture war…” I hear the odd progressive who reads this essay grumbling.

Well, what led me to think to actually visit the Little Free Library’s website and read about its Read in Color initiative? A tweet by a progressive who, having around 1,667 followers at this writing, and who apparently hoped to garner more than that rather unimpressive number, decided to tweet out something provocative in order to generate traffic. And to his credit, it worked to some extent. It caught my eye, anyway:

Fibonacci Sequins @brent_waggoner·Aug 7 I like going through the Little Free Libraries and throwing away all the right wing and fundamentalist garbage books.

I knew that many leftists detest the whole idea of free speech and the circulation of ideas even if one disagrees with some of them. But even I did not expect a progressive person would be so obsessed by his hatred of the right that he would boast on Twitter of his intolerance and acts of theft and vandalism, and was interested that Twitter seems okay with that, as does the Little Free Library given that it has issued no public comment on the tweets of this bigoted fellow. But maybe they chose the wisest course—ignore the crank. Maybe I should have, too. But it is interesting that he goes on to specify the kinds of authors he goes to great lengths to restrict other people’s access to:

Fibonacci Sequins @brent_waggoner·Aug 7 Removed Thomas Chatterton Williams today, have removed Hannity, De Santis, some others.

Goodness. He hates everyone from media figures to governors to rising young public intellectuals. But he did do a service for conservatives who might operate Little Free libraries of their own—you might want to keep an eye out for left-wing maniacs trashing your stock.

As noted, I am actually grateful to this progressive vandal because he spurred me to read more about the Little Free Library movement and to learn that it is now leading the charge in support of a particularly poisonous form of identity politics even while profiting from a positive public image as a purveyor of books for the masses and literacy for all. All very benign and public-spirited and cuddly and cute.

But don’t you believe it. Following the pattern of, say the League of Women Voters, Little Free Library is moving away from its non-partisan roots and the idea that books are for everyone to one of “these books are for everyone”—these ideas are acceptable, these authors are what we want people in deprived areas to read, these skin colors and genders and orientations are what we want in the authors of the books we endorse.

This new wokeness at Little Free Library is tragic, but common enough these days. What used to bring people of different beliefs together (books and literacy campaigns) must now be utilized to condemn all that is “white” and traditional and bourgeois.

Interestingly, though, if one reads about the organization’s mission and vision, one notices that the sentiments expressed are not so much, as one would have expected, about expanding one’s range of knowledge and learning about the world and the history of the of it or even the joy of literature and the act of reading. No, it seems to be all about being affirmed in one’s existing identity:

Our mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.

Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege.

Thus, it is not about creating a culture of reading and strengthening the culture or creating cohesion and a sense of solidarity with our fellow citizens. It is about what is “personally relevant.” If you are person of color, you get to read about persons of your color. If you are a white person, you get to read about how racist and privileged you are.

Let’s explore the Read in Color initiative. We are told:

Read in Color® is a new initiative bringing diverse books to Little Free Library book-sharing boxes around the world. Read in Color distributes books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice; celebrate BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized voices; and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers.

And:

By reading diverse books, we can increase understanding, empathy, and inclusion.

Who could possibly be against “understanding, empathy, and inclusion?” The trouble is, many of the books that the Little Free Library are perfect examples of how to make meeting those laudable goals utterly impossible.

Check out the Read in Color Recommended Reading webpage, if you don’t believe me.

Remember, this program is set for expansion for this year.

Here is what Metzger and his minions deem suitable reading material, particularly for poorer neighborhoods. They do not want, for example, little African-American girls to read anything a right-wing man of whatever race might have written that is moving or beautiful or a little Hispanic boy to read something a heterosexual non-leftist woman might have written that does not validate the woke agenda. Oh, no. The goal is to provide work by writers strictly by race, woke ideology, or LGBT—etc. etc.--status. So much for, you know, “inclusivity” and “diversity.” It all about what progressive white people at big-name nonprofits decide is “personally relevant” to minority people (children, in particular) in poor neighborhoods. So heartwarming!

And there is a category for Muslims, but not for any other faith. (Query: Why no books on Islamic teaching on sexual morality? Hmmm ….)  So much for figures such as Martin Luther King—he probably just qualifies by race, not faith.

Here are some of the recommended books that are soooo geared towards reducing racial tensions:

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Brown, illustrated byTheodore Taylor III (22 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2018). Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. Baby – 3.

Creating commies in the cradle, yep.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad (256 pp, Sourcebooks, 2020). This eye-opening book challenges you to do the essential work of unpacking your biases, and helps white people take action and dismantle the privilege within themselves so that you can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

You know, I really shouldn’t be taking time writing this essay. I really should be unpacking my biases and helping other white people do better, too. Right, Mr. Metzger?

And just in case you think the Little Free Library has any inkling that the US is not an irredeemably oppressive society, here is another of their recommendations:

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (272 pp, Seal Press, 2019). In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

Infect. We are a diseased society, not just a troubled one.

To the people who run the Little Free Library, it is very important to validate for children the idea that adults must bend to their will even about fundamental biological truths:

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope by Jodie Patterson, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (40 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021). Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are. Ages 4-8.

And it not just Penelope, but George:

George by Alex Gino (224 pp, Scholastic, 2017). When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. Ages 8-12.

So, the message for the children of America from the Little Free Library is pretty simple: This is a racist country. White people are evil and your sexuality is whatever you say it is, reality be damned, and you simply need to take a stand and make reality irrelevant. What an uplifting message to send to the children of this country. Parents are unenlightened morons and I, the child, know best.

Luckily, to its credit Little Free Library does not try (hard to see how it could, really, without doing major damage to its brand) to stop others from setting up their own book-sharing boxes:

Does Little Free Library prevent people from creating their own unregistered book-sharing boxes?

No. We believe that book-sharing is a wonderful thing—whatever form it takes. In fact, we provide free plans and blueprints for book-sharing boxes on our website and provide tips on how to get started!

We hope that those who build their own book-sharing boxes will register them with us and become part of the global Little Free Library community, but that is up to the individual.

Food for thought, conservatives. If you are absolutely determined to build, stock and maintain a book-sharing box (even in the dreaded white suburbia) you can—just stay well away from the Little Free Library community.

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