With the nearest library more than 10 miles away, the city of Granjeno partnered up with a local nonprofit to bring the gift of reading to the community just in time for the holidays.
On Wednesday, officials with the city and the Edinburg-based South Texas Literacy Coalition held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil a Little Free Library via Facebook Live.
The library will be housed at the parking lot of the city’s Veteran’s Memorial Park.
“They approached us and they have lending libraries throughout the Valley in rural communities in areas that aren’t near a library,” Granjeno Mayor Yvette Cabrera said of STLC prior to the unveiling. “It’s one of the things we wish we had in the community and now because of the pandemic we have the park area closed and want to still offer something to the community. We’re inviting people to come out to donate.”
Granjeno is located near the Anzalduas International Bridge and has a population of around 300 people with a median household income of under $19,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Little Free Library in Granjeno is the first to open by the STLC after its only other libraries in McAllen were closed over the summer due to the pandemic. Currently, the only open library is outside the STLC headquarters at 108 N Jackson Rd. in Edinburg,
“We’re targeting small cities and Granjeno is a border land city with hardly any reliable internet or cellular access,” STLC Outreach Associate Valerie Chong said. “It’s a remote city where children don’t have their own school district and have to travel up to 20 miles to go to school. There’s no accessibility to age appropriate literature for these kids so there’s quite a need there.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Granjeno closed its only park, which was also the city’s sole attraction.
“We opened it a few years ago and now we can’t offer it to the community,” Cabrera said. “The free library will be placed in the parking lot of the park and will hopefully stay there permanently.”
The Little Free Library typically allows people to grab whatever books they want from it and be replaced with books being donated from the community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and STLC sought $1,000 in donations to purchase a year’s supplies of books for the library when they announced the fundraiser last month.
“We reached and surpassed that goal within three days,” Frank Lopez, STLC marketing and communication associate said at Wednesday’s event.
To honor the 33 donors who helped bring the library to Granjeno, the walls of the library are being decorated with plaques naming the donors to commemorate their efforts.
“It’s to show we’re grateful for them so from now through forever, the families who come here will see the names of the people who made today possible,” Lopez said.
The amount of books will offer a variety of reading material for the community while also keeping residents safe, Cabrera said.
“The amount is so that people can keep those books since taking and leaving used books could possibly spread COVID-19 and other diseases,” Cabrera said. “The community needs something like this. We don’t have streetlights in the city and we only have satellite internet service in the area so it is slow for our residents. They can’t even go online because of it.”
Chong said the $1,000 covered the purchasing of the library nook and up to 500 books to be placed there.
“We want one Little Free Library in each county we serve in south Texas but right now we’re focusing on Hidalgo County which has many small towns in need of resources such as Granjeno,” Chong said. “Literature is a critical factor in post-secondary education and we have low high school graduation rates in the area because of it. If you want kids to be college and career ready and successful, you need to ensure they have access to literature at a very young age.”