MILWAUKEE — Barby the Book Fairy isn't a mystical creature. In fact, she is a very real person who has donated more than 10,000 books to Little Free Libraries across Milwaukee since April 2020. However, the Milwaukee 'Book Fairy' is taking her game to the next level: she is donating 10 Little Free Libraries to different communities across the city.
"I was actually really surprised by the amount of applications. I got over 30 applications," Barbara Cerda, a.k.a Barby The Book Fairy, said.
Ten people have been chosen to receive a Little Free Library from her. One of those is Elizabeth Ramirez.
“I really thought it was important to bring more books to the community," Elizabeth Ramirez, a community organizer, said.
Ramirez will put her Little Free Library at 29th Street and Forest Home Avenue next to the daycare.
Barbara started her journey back in April of 2020. She was doing some spring cleaning during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and decided to donate a few books to her local Free Little Library. She noticed how fast the books would be taken, so she kept filling the library. Then she transitioned to filling other libraries. After she ran out of books, Barbara asked for donations on social media, and they came flooding in. Fourteen months later, she has donated more than 10,000 books. TMJ4's original story with Barby The Book Fairy was published on Dec. 21, 2020.
This has been a project done by the people, for the people. None of it would have been possible without a little bit of help.
"So this project has been like community power, like 100 percent. I’ve had, you know, volunteers come build the Little Free Libraries. People have donated books. People have helped me deliver books. People have helped - are helping me like design my website,” she said.
Her goal has always been to encourage reading and make it as accessible as possible. By creating Little Free Libraries, even more people have the ability to walk and pick up a free book.
Barbara stocks the shelves of dozens of Little Free Libraries across the city with all sorts of books, from children's books, to textbooks, to cook books. However, she focuses on stocking the shelves with Black and Brown authors and especially Spanish literature.
"There are so many people that speak different languages in our community, and we are this like melting pot of these beautiful and amazing people," Barbara said.
She lives in Milwaukee's south side, which is predominately Spanish speaking. It's not enough to just provide books for people. The literature has to be in an accessible language as well.
“It’s really good to have these books that represent a lot of different backgrounds, to see themselves in especially," Elizabeth Ramirez said.
Next for Barbara is her book swap and donation on June 27 at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. It is billed as the 'Biggest Free Library' in Milwaukee. She has more than 50 boxes of books in her garage that will hopefully all be taken by families or used by others to donate to Little Free Libraries. The event starts at noon.