‘Little Free Diverse Library’ unveiled at new Rochester site

May 4, 2024

ROCHESTER — Months after being removed from its original location outside Plumb Library, a “Little Free Diverse Library” has been reestablished at a new location in Rochester.

At a ribbon-cutting event Saturday, May 4, Tri-Town Against Racism opened the bookcase that now stands outside the Rochester Women’s Club.

The ceremony was momentarily met with protestors, illustrating that though the library has found a new site following the debate sparked by its original Plumb Library location, discourse regarding access to certain books continues in the Tri-Town.

With the unveiling, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester now each have a Little Free Diverse Library.

The Rochester Women’s Club had reached out to host the library shortly after its removal from Plumb Library property in the fall of 2023, according to Tri-Town Against Racism vice president Rhonda Baptiste.

The bookcase outside Plumb Library received objections from some Rochester residents to its contents and to a “diversity” flag that had been affixed to it, which was eventually removed. That flag is attached to the library outside the Rochester Women’s Club.

Baptiste said the bookcase in its new location is a “better user experience.”

“There’s more discretion and more privacy, and it ends up being better in the end,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate that what happened, happened - regardless of intent. It was really harmful for a lot of community members to witness what happened.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony served as “a refresh,” Baptiste said.

“Nobody is forcing anybody to use the library,” Baptiste said. “If people have concerns about what can be found in a little diverse library, there’s nothing scary in there.”

The books in the Little Free Diverse Library at the Rochester Women’s Club remain the same as the ones that were in the bookcase outside Plumb Library — books and stories about people who are “underrepresented” or “historically marginalized,” according to Baptiste.

Elliott Talley, a junior at New Bedford High School, served as the event’s guest speaker.

“Diverse perspectives make people more compassionate,” Talley said during the speech.

He spoke about efforts to ban books that have emerged across the United States and a piece of proposed legislation in Massachusetts that would make banning books more difficult at the local level.

“Literature can create change,” he said.

Tri-Town Against Racism communications director Jessica DeCicco-Carey then spoke about the life of Abraham Skidmore, a Mattapoisett resident in the early 20th century. Skidmore, who was Black, ran a barbershop and began the town tradition of a Halloween parade.

While DeCicco-Carey spoke to about 50 attendees in front of the Rochester Women’s Club, several people walked up Marion Road and briefly stood across the street, holding signs representing Tri-Town for Protecting Children.

The organization is “dedicated to raising awareness about sexually-explicit literature and social influencing being promoted within our public schools,” according to Tri-Town for Protecting Children’s website.

Jackie Eckert, a member of the group, said the appearance at Tri-Town Against Racism’s event was “to make our presence known.”

“Tolerance can be taught wholesomely,” she said.

After the minute-long showing across from the Rochester Women’s Club, Tri-Town for Protecting Children members held signs and distributed flyers at Plumb Corner as the Little Free Diverse Library event continued nearby.

For Talley, the library unveiling showed the “commitment” of Tri-Town Against Racism to “diverse education for all students” as book ban attempts appear in Massachusetts and other states.

“We can’t let that happen to our children here, and we have to make sure there are ways that people can get books that they identify with — with things like a Little Free Diverse Library,” he said.