The 2014 initiates of the Iota Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority unveiled a new Little Free Library in August of 2021. Providing free books to the community, the library is located outside of the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Chapter alumnae Janaye Oliver explained that the group wanted to give back to the greater Harrisonburg community and specifically to the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center. “Our organization has always emphasized the importance of sisterhood, scholarship and service,” she said. “We wanted to extend our reach beyond campus.” The Iota Alpha chapter was chartered in 1971 at James Madison University. It was the first Black student organization on the school’s campus.

Michael Parks, the director of communications for Harrisonburg, said the Little Free Library’s location makes it highly accessible. “[Delta Sigma Theta] reached out to us looking to do something good for the local community. It’s right in the middle of the Northeast neighborhood, and it’s a facility that is very easy for children and families to walk to.”

Requests for donations resulted in more than 200 books for the library’s wide-reaching collection. Chapter alumnae Jasmine Rountree explained that one main goal of the library is to assist K-12 students who struggle with reading challenges, but the hope is that it will also become a resource for adults looking to improve their literacy.

“We believe this will also be a good tool for those who may need to improve their reading skills to get a GED diploma, obtain a job or gain citizenship,” Rountree said. “The best thing about all of this is that it’s free, it’s available all day every day and you don’t need a library card to access it.”

According to Oliver, the catalogue of books represents the diversity of Harrisonburg community.  Reading and storytelling are important in every culture,” Oliver said. “We decided a Little [Free] Library that included books from some of Harrisonburg’s most spoken languages such as English, Arabic, Spanish, Kurdish and Russian was the best way to give back and bring people together.”

We congratulate the Iota Alpha chapter on their library and wish them well on their future endeavors. If you would like to add your thoughts, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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