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’.”
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.
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.
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.
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To contact lifestyles editor Rhiannon Gilbert, email firstname.lastname@example.org