New Community Library Project Opens First Venue

A sneak peek at the back of the Harriet Curley Library, painted with the help of children in YMCA summer programs. Photo: Jake Sahr.

Writer: Hailey Allen

The Out of the Box Initiative plans to host the grand opening of its first community library, located on the corner of 13th Street and Forest Avenue, on July 31 at 11 a.m. The event will include music and snacks, and anyone is welcome to attend. Jake Sahr and Pascha Morgan co-founded the initiative and the nonprofit organization, Attain. Sahr says this is the first of many small libraries that his group plans to open.

The library is the size of a small shed, about 120 square feet. The inside houses a collection of books by BIPOC authors, as well as other books by other authors that focus on diverse communities. It includes books for a variety of ages, from toddler to teenager.

The purpose, Sahr says, “is to provide knowledge for and about minority groups.” Through this project, Sahr hopes to uplift minority voices in literature and educate young people on the histories of diverse communities.

Named for the first Black schoolteacher in Iowa, Harriet Curley, the library operates similarly to a regular library. Patrons can hang out in the space while reading the books, or check out a book to take home, with the promise they will return it for other readers when finished.

Local artists Eris Ashley and Brazzy_515 painted murals on and around the library, with help from children in YMCA summer programs. “The library is going to look like it’s sitting in a pond, with a hopscotch element that leads to the door,” Sahr says.

Sahr says it took about $6,000 and six months to develop and open the Harriet Curley Library. Books were donated from local libraries and private donors, and funds were raised through a grant from ChangeX. To help fund the creation of additional libraries, you can donate to the group’s CashApp, $outtheboxdsm. Books can be sent to P.O. Box 41171, Des Moines, IA 50311. For more information and updates, check out their Facebook page.

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