By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor,

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Hyattsville, MD. is using books as a means of bringing education, entertainment and hope to the community.

Two days after St. Matthew’s church member Bernard Jarvis, 25, was gunned down in nearby Brentwood in Northeast, D.C., the parish unveiled a Little Library for children in the neighborhood between services on June 30.  While the planning of the Little Library had been in the works for months, Rector Rev. Vidal Rivas and Associate Priest Sister Elena Thompson remembered Jarvis during the Little Library dedication.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Hyattsville, MD. officially dedicated the first Little Library solely for children on June 30. (Photo by Micha Green)

As the community mourned the loss of Jarvis, the birth of the Little Library brought a clear sense of joy to those who attended its unveiling.

“I think this is a little hope, to say as we remember the member that passed away, we can still continue to support those little kids that are growing up and contributing to this Little Library in his memory as well,” Hyattsville City Council member Edoard Haba (Ward 4) told the AFRO.

Haba shared that he felt the creation of the Little Library was important to children’s education and thus kids’ overall growth.

“Education is important in youth and kids’ development,” he said.

The City Council member is so inspired by the Little Library concept that he is working to have more built throughout Hyattsville.

“As part of my vision for the community, I also plan to install a couple more of these Little Libraries throughout the community.  We have three that are slated to be installed by the end of this month,” he said.

While Hyattsville already has a Little Library, according to Sister Thompson explained that the St. Matthew’s location is the only one solely dedicated to young people.

“The Little Library is a movement that is all across the country now, and they’re about a dozen Little Libraries already in Hyattsville, but this is the first one specifically dedicated to books for children,” she told the AFRO

Thompson shared the logical and historic reasons why having a Little Library made sense for the neighborhood surrounding St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo.

“We got the idea to put the Little Library here in two ways. One of which is that we have many children, when school gets out, walking right past our building. And the second is that this parish has a history of providing library services to the community, that goes back to the years in which the Hyattsville library was racially segregated,” she said.

According to Thompson, parish families worked to create an inclusive library.

“There was a family here named Hotchkiss who wanted to be sure that reading and books were available to all children. And so they and others established a parish library.  The family of Owen Thomas gave a large grant, when this building was built in 1953, to make sure that there’d be a dedicated library space to which everyone could come,” she told the AFRO

However, overtime, the demand for an inclusive library affiliated with the church became less as the public library eventually integrated.

“So we still have some of those old books, and we got into a discussion about what we should do with our old books from our old library and the children who are here in our church, in our day school and in the public school who come walking past us,” Thompson said. “And we brought up the idea of a Little Library and the Junior Warden immediately said, ‘I would like to build that.’  His name is Jose Ramirez. Jose went to his workshop, and over the next three months, built this library from scratch, and last Monday installed it.”

The need for a Little Library was further emphasized once installed, as community members began using it  before the formal dedication.

“The community already responded- brought books, taken books and we are looking forward to a big outreach as well as an internal ministry for the Parish,” Thompson explained.

Using the ministry of education, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) group at  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo will be sharing the Little Library idea.

“Our ECW is going on a visit to another parish that has another school, and we hope to be able to tell them our story, and help them to begin a Little Library ministry of their own.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor