Little Libraries: How two Rochester area women aim to inspire education and change in their neighborhoods

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. (WROC) — Two very different women in Monroe County are trying to better their communities through books; Kathleen Chinchilla in Irondequoit, and Rachel Devona in Rochester are each filling up Little Libraries in the region.

Little Libraries are small structures that resemble bird houses with shelves. Communities are encourage to donate and take books. The women and their goals might be different, but they both share a common history.

“I’m a teacher, my grandma was a librarian,” Chincilla said. Devona also said that her father was a librarian.

Chincilla noticed that one Little Library near her on Pardee Park was turning up empty recently, after it was jam-packed at the beginning of the quarantine. Not only does Chinchilla view these as a way to build the community, with her pedigree, she sees what an important educational and social tool they can be.

“We would go to the library almost every day,” she said. “For kids who are not in school, they need to read a lot of books before they get ready for school.”

Devona is an artist in the City of Rochester. For her Little Library crusade, she was given a “mini-grant” for women or non-binary artists from art community project called “Wall Therapy” to commemorate the ratification of the 19th amendment. Wall Therapy, which usually works in murals and engaging groups of artists, gave her full discretion to what she wanted.

So she decided to fill the libraries with books by Black female authors and their portraits.

“I was looking at my bookshelf and realizing most of the authors are white men,” she said. “And that I needed to find diversity in my own bookshelf, and I was led to presume that other people need it in their bookshelves.

“I’m hoping to inspire some conversation, and hear book reviews being exchanged, and people being excited by new authors, and about black authors, and about black women,” she said.

Both Devona and Chincilla hope that what they’re doing with their local libraries is just the first chapter… And that if you have a book or two to spare, you should donate a book.

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