Books for children: the local church hosts a “little library” for the neighborhood

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Local community members and a church in East Columbus are partnering with the Bartholomew County Public Library to provide free books to children.

Ed Niespodziani and Tom Hadley recently completed work on a “little library” outside East Columbus United Methodist Church. The structure is a small book box placed on top of a pole and is designed to look like a replica of the church.

The books inside the church’s mini-library are free for neighborhood children and are from the Bartholomew County Public Library’s Book Express. According to Sandy Allman, community outreach librarian and coordinator of Book Express, the library began stocking the box with books last week. They plan to check the box and restock it twice a month as needed.

The concept is similar to the book boxes under the Little Free Library umbrella. However, this particular box is not affiliated with this organization, said Katie Niespodziani.

The idea for the little library came from Hadley, who is a retired teacher, church member, and friend of the Niespodzianis. When he told church member Katie about it, she told him that her husband had experience making small bookcases.

“I thought I could probably convince him to do one more,” Katie said. “So Tom financed its construction and volunteered his time, and they collaborated. And like Ed always does, he designed it to look like the structure it’s close to.

She added that they had received information from the project about other church members. Although there was some interest in filling the library with religious children’s books, they decided to go for a variety instead in hopes of reaching a wider audience.

Pastor Jongmin Lee said he was proud of the dedication and compassion shown by members through this project.

According to Katie, the small library is part of the church’s plans to do more outreach to children in the nearby neighborhood.

“Tom said his life at home as a child was a life of generational poverty, so they had no money to own a book,” she said. “Ed came from a family of seven, and I guess funds were slim for books as well. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. So to have that feeling for the neighborhood and the kids – The demographics of this neighborhood are mostly single parents with kids, and so we know it’s a tight thing.

“It opens up a world of books for all kinds of people who may not have had that opportunity,” Ed said.

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