Little Library, Large Impact

Little Library, Large Impact

Spotlight Story
The following is an interview conducted by Debby Kirk, Director of Faith Formation for the Southern New England Conference with Debi Mastroni-Kenyon, Director of Faith Formation at the Enfield (CT) Congregational, United Church of Christ.  Debi Mastroni-Kenyon is a facilitator for a Faith Formation Community of Practice and also serves on the National Board AUCE, The Association for United Church Educators.
At Enfield UCC we have been saddened by the continued push to ban books not only at the Enfield Board Of Education but also around the state and country. Our response is to share, with the help of  our community partners, a new little lending library.  This project has been sponsored through the Enfield CT Rotary Club which has an emphasis on literacy. It is our goal for this library to have an eclectic selection of books to choose from; however, there will always be copies of the books people are trying to silence. Come and borrow a copy for yourself today!! #EnfieldUCC #ReadBannedBooks

Good afternoon and thank you for taking time to share the story of the Little Library.  Tell us what inspired this ministry?
So, interestingly, it was a series of events.  Back in October one of the members of the local Board of Education had a list of six books that she was proposing the town ban. Each one had an LGBTQIA theme and yet these books were not even in the high school.  We wondered, “Why are you wanting to ban books that aren’t even there?” One title was This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, a nonfiction book for young adults that addresses stereotypes.

Can you describe the process?
The following Sunday, Pastor Greg Gray mentioned this and congregants come forward with some funds to purchase the books for the school. The collection was so large that we were able to purchase more books and host a free give-away in early November.  Then someone in the church had the idea to set up little free library on our campus.
Pastor Greg is a member of the Rotary Club in town and he shared this suggestion with the club knowing that they have an emphasis on literacy. The Rotarians provided some funds to purchase the little library.  We had it painted with a rainbow and stocked the shelves. We were set to open the library in the winter, but had to postpone the first planned dedication because the library was accidentally knocked over by our snow plowing people! 

What has been the reaction in the community? 
There has been some pushback in town.  There is a local facebook group that has posted comments to the effect the “we are poisoning the minds of youth.”   But most everyone has been very accepting and happy about this.  They feel it is a good idea.  It is really only a handful of people who have a problem with it. We are offering the titles; people can choose to take the book or not. 
What kind of engagement have you noticed?
We have a security cameras and 24 hour surveillance on the campus.  The library is situated on one of the walkways near the church so that it is monitored. It is really neat to see people stopping by and taking books and leaving books.  
At this point there has been a good deal of use and other books that have made their way in-- romance novels, for example! It was important to me to have anti-racist literature included because we have had some racial incidents in the community, so I have added those.  We are keeping it stocked with social justice books and people are free to leave whatever they like.

What has been the impact? What kind of conversations have come up as a result?
I feel that folks in the LGBTQ community have been so marginalized over the years. We need to start normalizing conversation as way to show support. In our church we are very deliberate in that we follow Jesus Christ.  We follow the love that Jesus taught, the love for all human beings.  From my standpoint as a faith formation practitioner this is just another extension of that love of Jesus for all people.
This project has been an opportunity for conversation.  We have seen many people examine biases and attitudes have been transformed.   Nine times out of ten it is the children who open their (adults) eyes because they are so accepting and say, “well of course we love everybody!”

I know that your congregation is Open and Affirming and this little library seems a natural extension of that ministry.  Can you tell me about other ONA initiatives at Enfield? 
We have several events lined up for June which is Pride Month. The Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus is performing on June 11.  They were here last year, and they are so much fun and so talented.  The second is a group called Another Octave: Connecticut Women’s Chorus and they will be here on June 24.  Both are free events thanks to a concert series fund that was established by a family in the church.  The Enfield Pride group is using our campus for a large event on June 17 we will have vendors, food trucks, and a drag show.  Some folks are concerned about that, but my feeling is that these are just human beings with makeup on.  These are people who deserve love.

2023 Pride Guide

The SNEUCC Faith Formation team seeks to spotlight innovative ministry and best practices in local settings throughout the conference. If you have a creative or adaptive ministry, please reach out to Faith Formation Program Support Associate Sean Amato to share your story.


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Debby D. Kirk

Debby Kirk serves as leader of the staff team that provides resources for the work of nurturing disciples of all ages in the local church. Her area of focus is youth ministry. Contact her for:  Faith Formation Communities of Practice Confirmation ...

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