Welcome to the BiblioUnderground, a grassroots library and social justice movement whose mission is to turn victims of dating and domestic violence (DV) into survivors by creating “Book-it 2 Freedom Kits” (Bi2FKs): prepaid burner phones, uploaded with DV and Safety Planning resources, hidden within discarded library books and distributed to local organizations that are “checking people out of bad situations.”
Libraries routinely “weed” or “discard” books in order to make way for new items. Deselection is an essential component of materials management, and this process is generally outlined in a library’s collection development policy.
Discarded library books can be transformed into secret vessels that hold the key for millions of people who need an escape- a mobile phone that their abuser doesn’t know exists.
The phone is a literal beacon of hope; without unfettered access to the outside world, many victims of DV remain trapped in highly controlled environments by their abusers. Preloading the phone with essential information and local contacts is one less obstacle in their path on their way out the door to freedom.
Dating & domestic abuse is a rampant social ill. In the U.S.:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to more than 10 million women and men annually [source]
- The most dangerous time for a survivor is when they leave the abusive partner; 75% of domestic violence-related homicides occur upon separation and there is a 75% increase in violence upon separation for at least 2 years. [source]
The project began in March 2022 when a friend confided in me (hi, I’m Molly) about their abusive marriage. Over time, they revealed loathsome details about the relationship, including threats with weapons and physical abuse. Their abuser would take their phone, money and car keys as “punishment” for imagined slights. This friend had been cloistered and gaslit into silence for many years.
I gave them an “untraceable” mobile. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I knew my mate need a burner. Before proffering the phone, I created a new email account, added DV/social services contacts and left notes in the phone, providing them with some agency begin drafting a plan to save themselves.
The idea of upcycling a weeded book as a stash box for the phone came later. After realizing they couldn’t bring home the phone, and a meandering conversation that included Nancy Drew and spy novels, we decided I would make a book safe. Using a discard, a crude but workable book safe was created, and the phone become much easier to use discreetly.
Through the first of what we hope to be many “Book-it 2 Freedom Kits” (Bi2FsKs), my friend was able to connect with domestic abuse advocates. With support, this person created and executed their safety plan. They got out!
The vision for the BiblioUnderground is establish a network resourceful book nerds from across the country who create Book-it 2 Freedom Kits (Bi2Fks) and pass them onto local experts, the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ organizations, such as abuse advocacy groups, OBGYNs, housing officials, health and human services departments, etc. who will connect every “book its’ reader.”
We want to better inform the general public about safety planning and digital security. We want to end to silence and stigma that surrounds abuse, to heal ourselves by helping others. We want to save lives through reliable and safe technology.
Library staff already have the knowledge and multiple infrastructures to craft and send Bi2FKs, but without an independent organization to connect librarians, provide funding and streamline supplies (phones, postage, etc.) the network is offline. Let’s be like Lithuanian knygnešiai, or book smuggling freedom fighters!
For more information visit the FAQs.
*Reference librarians are notorious for their detailed annotations.