Broadway Christian Church promotes literacy with little library

Monday, June 30, 2014 | 6:56 p.m. CDT; updated 7:23 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Marilyn McCreary is bringing books to a new Little Free Library just behind Broadway Christian Church. Charles Kyriakos built the library, and McCreary has helped to stock it. She recently added one of her favorites: "The Velveteen Rabbit."

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." — "The Velveteen Rabbit"

COLUMBIA — Last week, Marilyn McCreary, 69, said goodbye to one of her favorite childhood books.

Little Libraries in Columbia

Last summer, Laurie Spate-Smith and Barbara Overby unknowingly started their little libraries within a few blocks and days of each other.

She took her copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit" to a place where others would have a chance to enjoy it: a Little Free Library at Broadway Christian Church.

The library, a small plywood house with a green roof mounted on a light pole outside of the church, was McCreary's idea, and by contributing "The Velveteen Rabbit" and other books, she felt she was helping the library fulfill its purpose.

"I'm a retired elementary teacher and a literacy consultant, and so getting books into people's hands is something that I'm really into," she said.

Little libraries, like the one at the church, promote literacy and help build a sense of community by encouraging neighbors to share their favorite books. There's no tracking system or due date: anyone can take a book, read it and return it, or simply put another one in its place. They're popping up all over the world.

Broadway Christian Church's little library is Columbia's third registered library on Little Free Libraries' website, a national organization that promotes the share-a-book initiative.

McCreary was online in March when she first learned about little libraries, and she planned to build one at her house, she said. But when she heard a series of sermons about how the congregation could serve the community, she realized it was an initiative the church could undertake.

After that, there was no stopping her. In April, she pitched the idea to members of the church's service ministry, on which she serves. The committee approved the project in May. 

"Anything that we can do to promote reading and literacy is important," coordinator for service ministry Debby Graham said. "The little library helps in some little way, and I think that's great."

Charles Kyriakos, another member of the church, took on the task of building the library once it was approved.

Kyriakos, a retired MU School of Music professor, has done other woodwork for the church, including a set of shelves, desks and bulletin boards for the music center, he said.

It took about two weeks to build the library, and the total cost was about $140, Kyriakos said. The service ministry approved about $100 for building the library, Graham said. Kyriakos paid for the difference and provided some wood and plexiglass.

Graham said it cost an additional $35 to register the library with Little Free Libraries. Once registered, little libraries appear on a map on the website, which anyone can search. Graham expects the church's library to be added to the website soon.

The little library's three compartments are home to books such as "Gabriel's Angel" by  Nora Roberts, "The Dwelling Place" by Elizabeth Musser, and some children's books such as "Noisy Farm" by Lara Ede and "Frightful's Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.

"I don't have any teens books, but I’m going to steal some from my nieces," McCreary said, laughing.

She said she's hoping the library's audience will extend beyond the church. She said she tried finding books in Myanmar and Thai to cater to some of the refugees who live in an apartment complex across from the church, and who use the church's community garden.

"Literacy is so important in the early childhood, and literacy in whatever language," she said.

The service ministry agreed that the best place for the library was a light pole near the start of the path to the community garden, Graham said. The garden has about 148 plots, and refugee families grow crops in about 40 percent of them, she said.

"When refugees tend the garden, they truly come as a family," Graham said. "We're aware of that, and thought it would be a great idea to have the library there since it has books for all age levels and reading levels."

Taw Taw, 22, a refugee from Myanmar, said he didn't know about the library before Saturday morning, but he was likely to use it. He wants to be a mechanical engineer, so he said he would like to see some books about the topic.

Ammanuel Minuye, 12, is from Ethiopia. He wants to be an engineer or a doctor when he grows up, and said he'd also like to see books about engineering..

Taw had another book suggestion: a dictionary.

"That I can take care of," McCreary said Sunday morning.

The church is just starting to promote the initiative, McCreary said. Information will be posted on Broadway Christian Church's website and in its newsletter, and there will be a grand opening for the library, though there isn't a set date yet.

Although it's only been open for a week, the new library has already seen some action: "The Velveteen Rabbit" was taken sometime before Sunday morning.

It's just what McCreary wanted.

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