Murfreesboro’s Little Free Library

A local craftsman got creative and used a spray-painted salad bowl for the dome on Central Christian Church's Little Free Library. (Rhiannon Gilbert/ Sidelines)

If you pass Central Christian Church on the corner of East Main Street, you’ll notice a little box on a pole, similar to a birdhouse, with a gold dome on top that replicates the church roof. Placed in front of it is a rock for small children to stand on and reach into the  glass door, always unlocked, which simply reads “Little Free Library.” Murfreesboro is home to three of these unique boxes, built to circulate books and help communities grow.

The Little Free Library project started in Wisconsin as a way to promote literacy, sharing, creativity and face-to-face communication with its “take a book, return a book” motto. Since its establishment in 2009, the project has over 25,000 Little Free Libraries registered in communities around the world, including some in countries with lower access to books, like Honduras and Guatemala.

Pastor Steve Odom saw a Little Free Library and reached out to a craftsman in his congregation to build the box that is now in front of Central Christian Church. He shared his reasoning for the tiny establishment in an interview with Sidelines.

“I thought one: it’d be good for literacy; two: it’d be fun. I like to read, maybe I’ll get a book that I’ve never read before; and three: it’s good publicity for the church. People drive by and recognize us as the church with the little box out front,” Odom said.

In a world so reliant on technology and accustomed to people keeping to themselves, it takes awhile for communities to adjust to such odd additions. Now, though, the Little Free Library on East Main is lovingly sustained by people in the area.

“We had a hard time getting enough books at the beginning, but now people have kind of caught on and are always dropping books off,” Odom said. “Every now and then I’ll get a note in there or someone will leave a message on the office phone saying ‘what a great idea, thanks for doing that’.”

Pastor Steve Odom rearranges books in the Little Free Library beside Central Christian Church on April 7, 2015. (Rhiannon Gilbert/ MTSU Sidelines)
Pastor Steve Odom rearranges books in the Little Free Library beside Central Christian Church on April 7, 2015. (Rhiannon Gilbert/ MTSU Sidelines)

Central Christian’s was not the first Little Free Library to come to Murfreesboro, though. The one that helped inspire Pastor Odom is located outside the home of Deborah Flanigan, secretary in the graduate program office of MTSU’s English Department. Painted yellow to match the house, this one stands in the shade with a small bench beside it for children to sit and read.

Flanigan contacted a local craftsman to build the library as a birthday gift for her husband Rabbi Rami Shapiro, former adjunct professor of religious studies at MTSU.

Like the one by Central Christian Church, Flanigan and Shapiro’s Little Free Library brings people together in unexpected ways. It stays well-stocked and organized on a regular basis, and vandalism has never been an issue.

“We are always surprised at how invested people are in the little library,” Flanigan said. “We had always wanted to do something in our neighborhood to draw people together … the library does that.”

However, the face-to-face connections that the Little Free Libraries create don’t just stop at promoting a love for books.

“We see kids from all different segments of society and all different colors coming to the library to get books, so it kind of increases tolerance too, I think,” Flanigan said.

The community keeps Flanigan and Shapiro’s Little Free Library stocked and organized for them. (Rhiannon Gilbert/ MTSU Sidelines)


Similar communication and diversity can be found in the foyer of Tennessee Pediatrics of Murfreesboro near Medical Center Parkway where the third Little Free Library sits, painted red and full of books for people of all ages.

Curious newcomers gingerly approach the library to peek inside at the books and read the card that says “Thank you for protecting and loving our library.” On its roof is a placard with information about the organization and its “take a book, return a book” mission.

The Little Free Library at Tennessee Pediatrics of Murfreesboro houses books for people of all ages. (Rhiannon Gilbert/ MTSU Sidelines)
The Little Free Library at Tennessee Pediatrics of Murfreesboro houses books for people of all ages.
(Rhiannon Gilbert/ MTSU Sidelines)

For now, these three are the only Little Free Libraries in Murfreesboro. There are thousands more in existence, though, and with the organization’s new push to double the number of libraries, the Little Free Library movement will hopefully continue to impact communities around the world in not-so-little ways.

For more community features, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @MTSUSidelines

To contact lifestyles editor Rhiannon Gilbert, email 

Previous University Petitioned by Horse Rights Activists for MTSU Walking for Education
Next Webb to Lead New Charge in Men's Golf


  1. Avatar
    Mark Bell
    August 27, 2015

    Steve Odom is a very good man, and the Little Free Library project is very cool! Mr. Odom always seems to be behind projects that help make the world a better place and I commend him for that. He is a true public servant. I also commend the writer of this article, Rhiannon Gilbert, who did a very good job of capturing the spirit of Steve and the Little Free Library project.

    • Avatar
      September 17, 2015

      I think that this is a great way to get people to start getting involved in reading, especially children. This will be the easiest way for people to get involved and is great publicity for the church. I love how these are distributed in poor, developing countries because while children in the United States are dying to have the next latest gadget and video games, children in the Honduras and Guatemala are so hungry for education. These “Little Free Libraries” will be fast and efficient way of getting books and novels to children and adults as quickly as possible. I also believe that this will help break the habits of kids in the United States and gear them towards getting involved in reading, and get them to understand that education is a very important aspect in everyone’s life- young or old. Not only will this help boost reading levels, but it will also boost creativity. The community involvement will people of all races come together and will enhance community growth. Little impacts like this, will help solve predicaments like races against one another by creating the unity of learning. The Little Free Library will overall increase reading skills in children and adults in the Murfreesboro community.

  2. Avatar
    Sarah Larson
    September 17, 2015

    I love this idea of a Little Free Library and that there is not only 1 but 3 in Murfreesboro alone. It’s very inspiring in this day and age how although it’s all about technology, like it says in the article, books are still important to the younger generation. They grew up without knowing a life without technology so this creative idea helps this new generation a lot I’m sure. Pastor Steve Odom was very smart in his reasoning for the box as well.

    I have a box down the street from my house in New Jersey and I see kids come and go from it constantly. It brings life and hope to the neighborhood and as for this box in front of the church I’m sure it does the same. I enjoy Flanigan’s box too because of the bench next to it in the shade. It’s a nice welcoming touch that I’m sure all that come enjoy.

    I like the end line in this article because it pointed out how this movement isn’t little like the title of the library describes. This movement is not a little one in the slightest. It’s a big movement that I believe will continue to grow around the world to help the younger generations.

  3. Avatar
    September 17, 2015

    Knowing that the Little Free Library is available to anyone is a great feeling. It gives everyone an opportunity to be together. When you take a book, you leave a book for the next reader. Now-a-days, kids are begging for the latest items in technology and having this little library is a great start for kids to maybe pick up a book from time to time.

    Growing up, going to the public library was fun. There were so many books to choose from. But then, technology grew a lot. It grew so much that kids don’t give books the time of day because they can find and view it on their little portable tablets without the hassle of flipping through any pages.

    There are kids all around the world who do not get the chance to have an education like we do. I have hope that the Little Free Library will spread around the community not only as a convenience place to pick up a book on your stroll through the neighborhood, but also a symbol to enforce the importance of an education and to be grateful for what we have. Not everyone gets the same opportunities as each other.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.