By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Jim and Betty Loomis of Paynesville spent years teaching — Betty in the elementary grades for a few years and Jim teaching math and science in high school and later in middle school. He also coached and spent many years as athletic director, retiring in 1986.
They bought the Koronis Lodge on the north shore of the lake in 1959, and raised their six children there. In 1978, they built a new house on the adjoining property.
They have kept busy in retirement with travel to Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.
Books and reading are very popular pastimes in the Loomis family.
“We both read a lot; the whole family likes to read,” said Betty. “I belong to a book club and enjoy novels and biographies.”
Jim likes mysteries.
“I have a list of about 12 authors and I usually stick to those,” he said.
Their love of books is something they like to share with others, so when Betty read about Little Free Library — free book exchanges — it seemed a natural thing.
“Our daughter, Sara, was here visiting and told us it would be perfect out here with all the visitors to the lake in the summer and so many people walking by,” Betty said.
The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 in Wisconsin by a man who wanted to honor his mother. He built several more and gave them away, increasing the concept’s popularity.
Little Free Library was established as a non-profit in May 2012. It is now a worldwide phenomenon with the total number of registered libraries conservatively estimated to be more than 10,000.
The mission of Little Free Library is to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.
Each Library is unique but all share the theme of exchanging good books and bringing people together for something positive. The motto is: “Take a book — leave a book.”
Sarah found plans for her dad to build a Little Free Library on the group’s website.
“I thought it was a great idea, but I’m no carpenter,” Jim said. “I started from scratch in early 2012, and built it for just about $50. I used paint I had left over.”
The Library went up that summer, filled with a variety of books.
“Ladies come with kids and they sit on the bench to read,” Jim said. “We get to meet people when they stop and talk.”
This past summer, a “lower level” was added to the library for children’s books.
“I’ve seen a lot of different libraries,” said Betty. “Ours is quite simple.”
Those interested in sponsoring their own Little Free Library can purchase one finished or unfinished through the group’s website or do what Jim did and put together a completely unique one.
To be officially called a Little Free Library, it must have an official sign, number and/or listing on the Little Free Library Map of the World.
Jim and Betty keep an eye on the library’s contents.
“If books are in for a long time, we change them out,” Betty said.
In addition to reading, Jim does detailed cross-stich projects while watching Gopher sports on TV.
“That way, even if I’ve watched a poor football game, I’ve accomplished something,” he said with a grin.
Both Jim and Betty stay physically and mentally active and involved.
“We eat right and exercise,” Jim said. “A friend told me many years ago, ‘If you want to live long, don’t drink cheap beer.’”
“We would like people to keep reading,” said Betty. “Especially during summer at the lake — it’s a time to read.”
For more information, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.