Donations boost collection of books by minority authors at east Austin library

African American literature at the George Washington Carver Library (KXAN Photo)
African American literature at the George Washington Carver Library (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local social justice advocacy group wants to expand access to books written by authors of color for people who use an east Austin library.

The Austin Justice Coalition is asking community members to donate copies from a specific list of fiction and nonfiction titles to the Carver Branch of the library system. The city came up with the list of 126 works at the group’s request, and the donations will expand Carver’s collection.

“For me, even if we get two books, it’s better than nothing,” said Ishia Lynette, AJC’s social media and community service director. She’s organizing the Black Literature Matters donation event Monday as part of the organization’s Black Unity Week.

Carver already has a piece of its collection dedicated to African American authors, and Lynette believes they help minds young and old grow. “Which is why,” she said, “it’s so important that we get more black and brown authors in here so that the community has something to relate to.”

All of the books on the list are written by minority authors. Lynette hopes they’ll benefit future generations who use the library.

“I think as they get older, it’ll push them into society with them knowing who they are,” she said.

Managing librarian Doreen Boyd said they don’t usually rely on donations to keep collections current, but when she found out about the effort, “I thought, oh my gosh, this is awesome!”

According to numbers provided by city staff, Austin’s public library system has $4.3 million to spend on materials in the current fiscal year, an increase of about 20 percent from the last budget cycle and $1.2 million more than fiscal year 2016.

One reason for the spike is providing books for the new Central Library downtown, but it also provides funding for materials to various branches “based on circulation, demographics, and community needs,” said Kanya Lyons, a library system spokeswoman.

The donations will help keep the Carver stacks stocked with important works, Boyd said, but they’ll serve another purpose, too: showing a community commitment to culture.

“And I think that’s what this is going to do,” she said, “that they are really saying, ‘Hey, we see you. We really want to be a part of this public library.'”

“It’s a staple for the community,” Lynette said, one she hopes this donation drive will help preserve. “It’s important that we have a library where you can come in and you feel like you’re welcomed or it’s a place for you.”

AJC will be collecting the donations at Carver from 6-8 p.m. Monday.

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