Get to know the person, the vision, and the people behind the LiteracyNation’s Sidewalk Library.

Our Mission Statement

Our mission is to promote justice, equity, and diversity in literacy by providing services to underserved communities of Color and supporting diverse independent booksellers and self-published authors. Our goal is to increase the awareness and distribution of books that promote inclusion and positive representation of People of Color.

The “Sidewalk Librarian”

a mother and her son smiling while having a picture inside a library

In April 2012, Mr. Richard E. Ashby Jr., President and Co-founder of LiteracyNation, Inc. (a not-for-profit organization), set up a library on the street corner in West Philadelphia. Mr. Richie, as he is known by the folks in the neighborhood, performs on-site voluntary library services, for the Mantua community in West Philly. He plants new books along with fresh ideas in the hands and minds of children. He gives out new and used books along with encouragement to adults, assist patrons to file for unemployment, access free Wi-Fi, look up mass transit schedules, ready reference services, conduct story times, and conduct a homework help club daily. Some of the children books come from First Book Inc. through book Grants. LiteracyNation supplies a bulk of the books, along with Donations from friends.

The Sidewalk Librarian has taken over the corner mostly known for its drug activity. Mr. Richie sits out on the corner 5 days a week during favorable weather. Mr. Richie states “if they can sell poison… I can give away the antidote.” When he is not on the corner, you can find him hanging out with Councilwoman Janie Blackwell hosting a program at a senior center or at a day care center conducting a story hour. In Brooklyn, he is doing a breakfast and story hour with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. This Sidewalk Librarian’s sidewalk has no curbs or boundaries. He is quick to remind you that there is no substitute for your local library! He is only a quick fix in troubled times. He has traveled to Detroit and south to North Carolina “doing his thing”: Advocating for libraries, Promoting librarianship, literacy and love.