The USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) is hoping to build a relationship with children and youth in the Boyle Heights community one book at a time.

DPS and Keck Medicine of USC collaborated to bring a Little Free Library to Hazard Park Recreation Center, which sits across the street from the USC Health Sciences Campus. The Literacy Club is an organization that partners with law enforcement and community leaders to create custom-built miniature libraries in inner-city communities. The program’s mission is to cultivate community and knowledge through reading and education.

On Aug. 19, Keck Medicine executive leadership, DPS and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Division gathered to unveil the new Little Free Library at Hazard Park, the sixth library DPS has helped bring to communities surrounding the USC University Park and Health Sciences campuses.

“We’re putting books in kids’ hands, hoping to spark a passion and to encourage literacy in the community for kids who don’t readily have access to books or libraries,” said DPS Chief John Thomas. “We want the community to look at USC as partners and to know that we care. These libraries allow DPS to engage in the community in a non-traditional way and bridge the gap between USC and their neighborhoods.”

The Little Free Library was stocked with new books that didn’t stay on the shelves long, as dozens of excited children were awaiting their arrival. Thomas said DPS doesn’t just drop the books off, he encourages his officers to regularly visit the libraries to restock the books and read to children. DPS holds book drives to make sure the libraries shelves are fully stocked. The Hazard Park Little Free Library was built as a replica of a hospital, a tribute to the neighboring Keck Hospital of USC.

“People may forget what you do for them, but they never forget what you do for their children,” Thomas said. “This is our way of building positive relationships.”

— L. Alexis Young