MOSES LAKE — Just in front of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake, atop a post, with steepled roof, arched windows and a simple wooden cross, stands a mini-church which acts as a mini-library.
Or, to be precise, a Little Free Library.
And behind a little door with a big window, latched with a low-security, little wooden block, stand dozens of full-sized books.
Read-along books, picture books, kids’ books about sizes and shapes and science, a smattering of young adult fiction and a few appropriately cool-headed romance novels fill the little library to its rafters. The books are occasionally screened to make sure they’re kid-friendly, but there are no fines, no late fees and rules enforced only by the honor system.
The concept is simple, said Pastor Walter Klockers, who serves the church: anyone passing by can swing open that little door, grab a book and get to reading. When they’re done, they can return that book, and they can leave new books as well.
There are over 8,500 of these libraries-on-a-stick globally registered with Little Free Library, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing 24/7 book access to readers across the world. The organization was founded by a Minnesota man named Todd Herbert Bol, who created the first mini-library in 2009 as a tribute to his mother.
Seven years later, Immanuel Lutheran Church added its own library to the network, with sponsorship from the church’s Immanuel Lutheran Preschool. Between the preschool, the many organizations that use the church space and the nearby park popular in the summer, the church’s cache of literature still gets frequently perused, Klockers said, despite the city hosting a well-used public library.
The little library was built by Moses Lake resident Robin Major, who moved to town from the west side six years ago. After retiring from a lifetime working with concrete, he was able to devote more of himself to his hobby of crafting, and he only just recently finished work on a seven-foot long wooden replica of an aircraft carrier.
“You have to do something, or you’ll go nuts!” Major said.
A parishioner at Immanuel Lutheran Church, he quickly became known for his hand-crafted birdhouses, which he donates to the church’s end-of-year auctions.
So when Klockers called up Major to ask if he could help build the church’s Little Free Library, Major agreed to bring his skills to the project.
“This project was put together for kids who don’t have any way of getting books from the church, so they decided to put this house outside for the kids,” Major said. “It was no bother for me to do that. I still don’t do a whole lot for (the church,) but I’m there when they need me.”
Major looked at a handful of designs and decided to build the mini-library to look like a mini-church, an homage to the host property as well as simply being a more intricate design.
The majority of the structure is accessed through a small glass door and houses books, though Major threw in an “attic” nook on top for extra flair. Originally, a little skeleton sat at a desk on that upper floor, acting as the longsuffering librarian of the mini-library, but the dearly departed overseer has since been removed.
“They didn’t think I was very funny, so they took them out,” Major said with a chuckle.
At least three other official Little Free Library stands have been planted in Moses Lake over the years: in front of Knolls Vista Elementary, a residence near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on West Rose Avenue, and a residence in the 500 block of North Clark Road.
Those locations, listed on a map on the Little Free Library website, also provide blurbs about how that mini-library came to be. The little library on North Clark Road, for instance, was a Mother’s Day gift from the writer’s fiance, according to their blurb.
The patron of the West Rose Avenue library, a retired elementary school teacher, wrote that they commissioned a woodworker from the local farmers market to craft the stand.
“After retiring from elementary teaching in June 2017, I finally had time and lots of extra kids’ books to set my library out by my sidewalk,” they wrote. “Since I am close to the main family park and a middle school, I get lots of kid traffic! My favorite thing is to read the notes left for me in the LFL guest book!”
However, it’s possible there are other mini-libraries, affiliated with Little Free Library or otherwise, not listed on the organization’s map. Notably, the unit in front of the Immanuel Lutheran Church is not listed, though it is officially registered with Little Free Library.
For his part, Klockers said that the act of giving away books fulfills both his personal and his religion’s spiritual ideals, bringing a little serendipity to the community for its own sake.
“I believe in gifts, and gifts don’t have strings attached,” Klockers said. “And we as Lutherans believe in grace, that we don’t earn it, that God has given us this great gift of salvation, so now you just have to go do stuff. Relax and just help people.”
Emry Dinman can be reached via email at email@example.com.