Library collaborates with Grand Rapids nonprofit to host Black book exchange

Jordyn Horton, library specialist at the Mary Idema Pew Library, led a project to bring free books about Black people and culture to the Grand Valley community.

In cooperation with The Black Book Exchange Box (BBEB), Horton has chartered a free miniature library for the Allendale Campus. Launched on Juneteenth and located near the library entrance that faces the Cook Carillon Tower, the book house is open to anyone in the community. Any books taken can be returned to the library's book house or any BBEB in Grand Rapids.

BBEB is a community initiative that started in Grand Rapids with “a mission to make it easier to discover, read and share books that thoughtfully represent Black people and culture,” said Aarie Wade, founder and CEO of BBEB.

With 11 book boxes in five different Grand Rapids neighborhoods, BBEB was established in 2019 as a City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund Project. It has since expanded into a nonprofit organization to increase its exchange system and influence.

Jordyn Horton stands next to the Black Book Exchange Box in the Mary Idema Pew Library; staircase on right, box is painted deep blue
Jordyn Horton stands next to the Black Book Exchange Box in the Mary Idema Pew Library. The book house is one of 11 throughout Grand Rapids.
Image credit - Q Long
blue book box next to a staircase, The Black Book Exchange painted in light blue letters
The portable book house can be moved outside the Mary Idema Pew Library in nice weather.
Image credit - Q Long

Horton, a 2020 GVSU graduate, first learned about BBEB after participating in the Urban Core Collective’s Transformational Leaders Program. In her 2021-2022 cohort, Horton said she saw Wade give a presentation about her organization and was moved by the power of something as small as these book houses.

“An accessible book house is a small but meaningful way we can hopefully help to create a greater sense of belonging and community for Black students on campus,” Horton said. “The book house is for everyone to use, and I hope it interests people and inspires them to learn more about Black culture and experiences.”

The book house was designed by local artist Brandy Mayweather; it contains a specially curated collection of books about Black people and culture with varying genres. Trevor Noah’s "Born a Crime" and Eve L. Ewing’s "1919" are two examples of books in this portable platform, which can be moved outside for nice weather.

“A book house to be placed on the campus of a university and outside of Grand Rapids is an amazing accomplishment for our organization,” Wade said. “Being welcomed on Grand Valley's campus is beyond our vision for BBEB. It means the work we are doing to promote representation through literacy can now impact every community these students have come from and the communities they will go to.”

Thomas Garrett earned a bachelor's degree in writing in April.


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