Lauren June • Derry member

Church libraries were never something that caught my attention. Growing up, the library in our church was just a big room our parents used for meetings. I remember liking the soft carpet and thinking the wallpaper was weird. I don’t remember ever checking out a book or considering the possibility.

In my six years at Derry Church, I had a similar relationship with its library. No weird wallpaper, but it was just sort of there. A space I crossed through to get to other places or maybe stopped in to use the tables or soft chairs. I grabbed a couple Faithful Readers titles when I couldn’t find them at other libraries, but never looked or borrowed beyond that. Besides, the books had to contain heavy religious topics that would depress me, confuse me, or put me to sleep, right?

A library epiphany was coming.

It was January, and Tuesday night fellowship was bustling. The parents had a few hours to wait, and I realized idle hands could be doing something helpful. I asked committees and staff for things we could do.

One evening, Kristy Elliott approached me and asked if we’d be willing to do something to promote the library. She is part of the library committee (did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t!) and they had been working diligently to modernize and zhuzh up the space and its collection. Now they needed people to notice. Why not? I could throw together some signs and face some books with neat looking covers out towards the passersby.

Since it was almost February, I decided to focus on books about Love. I googled famous literary love quotes and was pleasantly surprised that our library contained many of the titles and authors I was seeing. C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, Anthony Doerr, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, Elie Wiesel, Dr. Seuss, the list went on and on.

I became well acquainted with our online catalog, which I didn’t realize had been featured on the homepage of Derry’s website all along. It holds electronic, searchable records of EVERY title and produced 55 titles for my “love” keyword search. I was impressed.

I quickly realized this library space wasn’t just a few dusty old books about the Protestant Reformation. There was good stuff there, and lots of it! Biographies, poetry, new fiction, local history, cookbooks, children’s picture books. Books for everyone, even lovers of literary fluff like me. And the shelves on religion weren’t just full of dated or overly cerebral topics (but those are there too if that’s your bag). There are stories and studies of faith from varied perspectives. And not just our protestant faith, but of religious thoughts from around the globe.

Heck with those few signs I promised Kristy. People needed to get in here to see this, to check out these books that Kristy, Courtney McKinney-Whitaker, and Chris Gawron had so lovingly gathered and organized for us. This stay-at-home mom/professional volunteer, lover of Derry Church, quirky theme and décor enthusiast (and creator of self-imposed titles) would be the (un)official Ruth Codington Lending Library Advocate. And I would drench that library in eye-catching thematic fun so it would blend into the background no more!

My initial promise of two monthly themes has turned into seven, and I have plans for more. I am having a great time decorating, featuring book categories, and actually reading what I recommend (our book on Phillis Wheatley is pretty great. Thanks, biography month).

I love watching books disappear off the shelves, seeing congregation members interacting with the space, and getting to know the staff better when they graciously answer my questions for the Staff Shelf. And who isn’t loving the anticipation of what the library-user-driven sermon is going to be when the summer reading challenge winner is crowned?!

The library has reminded me about the greatness of our building and its people. Our building has an amazing book collection, a room full of yarn, gardens to tend, bells to ring, children to teach, a nook stocked with free greeting cards, a full kitchen that produces tons of food and fellowship. There is something for everyone in these walls, a bounty we are so lucky to have. Explore it. It’s for you.

And while you’re at it, talk to the people you find. They’re great, and interesting, and you’ll probably find someone that will enrich your life somehow. That small interaction with Kristy last January gave me a fun new purpose, new knowledge, new insight, and new friends. I love being a part of this place and its people.

What a gift we have in our library. A quiet space to sit or visit with others. A place where kids can play and read together. Walls of diverse titles that entertain and inform us and remind us that it’s ok to doubt, to question, and to imagine. It is yet another reminder that we strive to be an open minded, curious, welcoming group here at Derry Church. You will know we are Christians by our love, AND by our cool set of books.