Giving Library 1

Katie Farris, left, and librarian Betty Coker show off books that can be found inside the Giving Library located outside Eclectic Public Library. The books inside are free to take.

The Eclectic Public Library may only be open 16 hours a week, but that doesn’t stop librarian Betty Coker —  or the generous friends of the library — from keeping books in the hands of citizens.

Toward the end of July 2021, retired teacher and library volunteer Katie Farris had an idea to create a giving library after she had seen many lending libraries around different cities and towns. 

“I think one day Betty and I were just talking about how we just had so many books we kind of needed to sell or get rid of,” said Farris. “We talked about just giving some of them away, but we didn’t have any way to do it. So, I said ‘You need one of those boxes.’”

With an overstock of books and the library’s limited hours, Coker knew It would be a great idea to have one just outside the front of the library.

Farris, who donates much of her time to the library, knew just the person to build the Giving Library box — Clyde Williams. 

“I asked Clyde to build it and probably within two weeks it was out here,” said Farris.

Coker said it came ready to put in the ground.

The red box with a door affixed to a post stands just outside the entrance to the library. It looks deceivingly small on the outside, but when opened, dozens of books wait inside.

When asked if the Giving Library was successful Coker said, “Oh, yes. It is a success. We keep putting books in there, especially Deb. I ask her to find books that our patrons would enjoy. We have a variety of children, teens and adult books in there.”

The books in the Giving Library are free to take. You do not have to bring the book back or give one yourself.

“I just want people to know it is here and that they can come get books whenever they need them,” said Coker. “Most people might feel a little strange just taking something if they think it is someone else’s property, but it is totally free to take.”

Coker and the friends of the library have been trying to get the word out about the Giving Library. Eileen Kennedy, a volunteer at the public library posted some photos of the Giving Library on the public library’s Facebook page saying, “Look what’s new at Eclectic Public Library! Stop by and pick up a free book after hours for your reading pleasure. Thank you Clyde Williams for building the Giving Library and Katie Farris for instigating the project.”

Coker hopes to be able to keep supplying the town with free books, so far, there are still plenty of books to replenish the box thanks. 

“People here are so generous with their donations, they really support us,” said Coker. “They give us so many books. The ones we can’t use out [in the library] or donate to Better World Books we put them in the Giving Library box.”

Several boxes of donated books sat taped up in the Eclectic Public Library’s Annex Building. Those boxes will be sent to the organization Better World Books, which helps fight illiteracy in different countries. According to the Better World Books website, the organization has helped to donate over 26 million books since its inception — several hundred of those books came from Eclectic. 

“We have a ten-year rotation on books on the shelves,” said Coker. “When we get new books and older ones come off the shelves, we sell them to raise money for the library or we donate them.”

The public library, which runs off a very small annual budget, uses the funds made from their book and gift sales, as well as their annual fundraiser, to keep programs going.

“The town pays for my salary and the building’s electricity bill,” said Coker. “The rest of it we have to come up with.”

The library’s annual fundraiser is coming in the next few weeks, with the date to be determined soon.

For more information about the Eclectic Public Library, call 334-639-4727. The library is open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1 – 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.