By: Angie Haddock
I know social media gets a bad rep sometimes – it can definitely be a drain on our brain power, right? But somedays, I am amazed at the wonderfulness I randomly come across! Such is the case with Libi’s Library, which came to my attention through Instagram.
Elizabeth “Libi” Jane Upshaw died on March 21, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Libi loved playing piano, snuggling her pomeranians, growing plants, drinking coffee, phone calls with her daughter, relaxing on the back porch with her husband and most of all, cutting hair. When it came to hair styling, Libi was one of the best in the business for over 40 years.
Libi also loved reading books! Her favorites were mystery and thriller. Over the years, she collected hundreds of books and enjoyed sharing them with others. She even kept a “library” in the back of her salon for her friends to check out.
Her daughter, Mallory, says that what most people don’t realize about her mom is “how incredibly brave, strong, and selfless she was. She was diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma in July 2018. We suspect she had been sick for some time prior to that but she had spent the last several years caring for her dad who lived in a nursing facility with Alzheimer’s. She rarely missed a day to visit him… She continued to work as much as she could until about a month before she died. In fact, she was on hospice and very frustrated with me because I ‘wouldn’t let her work.’ “
After her death, Libi’s husband kept her hardcover books. Mallory inherited the paperbacks – to the tune of 1,147 books. She says, “I was devastated about the idea of them sitting in a box in my garage. However, I also knew that it wasn’t realistic space-wise for me to unpack and keep them.” So Mallory and her friends came up with Libi’s Library, as a way to share Libi’s love of reading.
People who hear about the books can contact Mallory through the website, or on social media. She ships books to them, with the understanding that the books will be distributed to local Little Free Libraries in the area. She usually sends about 10-20 books in a shipment and has books currently in 21 states. She hopes to have sent books to all 50 states by the end of the year. She has also received permission to start a Little Free Library at a local bakery near her house, so she’ll have her own location to keep stocked.
All the books have stickers on them telling Libi’s story. Libi’s books also have a gold star sticker. Mallory explains: “I would love to be able to continue to collect and share books in her memory even after all of her books are distributed, but I wanted a way to identify which ones were actually hers.”
Be sure to follow along with Libi’s Library on Instagram and Facebook, so you can see all the places her books travel! If you find a book of Libi’s in your local Little Free Library, post about it and share the story. And if you’re around Nashville, keep an eye out for the books I’m dropping off in the area.