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'Antiracist Lending Library' combines Little Free Library with racial justice

"We are not experts in this area. We just want to provide books to people, so that they can do the work that we know needs to happen in this country."

ORONOCO, Minn. — Sisters Annie Johnson and Dana Bergner already had a substantial personal collection of books about race and works written by authors of color. 

After George Floyd was killed, they decided it was time to share. 

"We’re calling it our Antiracist Lending Library," said Johnson of the old mailbox outside her Oronoco home, which they converted to a community library.

Johnson came up with the idea while reflecting on Floyd's death. She says friends were coming to her family with questions. Johnson's husband is Black and her children are biracial. 

"We had a lot of people reach out to us and ask, 'What is our part? What can we do?' And honestly, I was asking myself that question. What is my part?" Johnson said. 

She shared her idea with her sister, who quickly got to work.

"The next day she had like 80 titles cataloged and ready to check out to people," Johnson said. 

Bergner says the titles in their collection are now up to 91 and growing, thanks to donations and thrift store finds. 

"We are not experts in this area," Bergner said. "We just want to provide books to people, so that they can do the work that we know needs to happen in this country."

The sisters list the books available at a link on the private Facebook group, Antiracist Lending Library. People are able to reserve which titles they want and can pick them up in the library. Bergner and Johnson place them in a plastic bag with a note with the borrower's name. 

Credit: KARE
Annie Johnson (left) and Dana Bergner stand next to the Antiracist Lending Library.

"You can tell by the plastic bag and the Post-it note that it's a very grassroots situation," joked Bergner. 

The sisters they aren't experts in this area and have a lot to learn themselves, but they wanted to create a place where people who wanted to learn could start. 

"[For the] people asking, 'What can we do?' I wanted to make it easy for them. I wanted to say, "You can read a book, and here’s the book,'" said Johnson. "I have so much that I have left to learn yet and I just wanted to share that with everybody. It's okay to say, 'I don't know how to do this work.'"

The Antiracist Lending Library Facebook group can be found here. If you'd like to donate a book to the library, their wish list is here

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