Church puts in Little Free Library

Pam Jeppesen, left, and Tom Jeppesen browse the library outside Loudon United Methodist Church.

Loudon United Methodist Church is offering residents outdoor access to books after a Little Free Library was installed.

Carl Offutt, evangelism committee chairman, said the idea was brought to the committee last year as an effort to increase community outreach. The committee is always thinking of ways to reach “non-Christians and nominal Christians who are not actively tied into a church,” Offutt said.

The Rev. Amy Cook, pastor, said she’s been wanting to do this for years.

“We have a neighborhood around us, and I see people walking up and down the street a lot, particularly kind of behind the church and beside, and I thought putting the little library there, especially with a lot of people quarantining, might give us something to share together with the community,” Cook said.

The library, built by Offutt, has been registered with the international organization Little Free Library.

“They share ideas, and if they find a good deal on books they can buy in mass and get a good price, and the connection also supports the pancreatic cancer society,” Cook said. “So I’ve had several friends who have passed from that. So that random connection was part of the reason why I registered us with the Little Library instead of just doing our own.”

The library has been filled with books from home collections of Cook, church members and Loudon Public Library. Offutt said he also donated some books from when his children were young.

Cook filled the library up enough so people can still flip through the books. If the library runs out of books, Cook said the church has a table stacked with books to refill it with. People are not required to bring books back once they take them.

Offutt said the project took about six months to get off the ground. He said he knew there were other libraries in Loudon but hadn’t paid much attention to them and didn’t know what they were about. When he visited his daughter in Greenville, S.C., he saw one, asked what it was and realized it was what Cook wanted to do in Loudon. He took a picture of the library to use as a reference.

Offutt found pine flooring in church storage and used that to make the library. He said he’s a “do-it-yourselfer” at home.

“I finally got it done, but by that time we were in the middle of COVID-19,” he said. “So it’s been sitting in the storage area at the church. The other members of the committee where we talk about doing this saw it, and we were all excited about it, and then we ended up having a long discussion about where to put it.”

Cook hopes to add more items to the library like a timed light or solar light since there are some people who walk by the church at night. She’s also thinking about turning the library into a small community garden. She wants to plant a little garden around the base of the library with a pair of scissors tied to the box, so people can clip herbs when they need them.

“People in this church, it doesn’t really matter what you do,” Cook said. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s try that.’ They’re highly experimental, and I like that.”