The rural communities of Stryker, Fortine and Trego — all located northwest of Whitefish — have joined the ranks of cities around the world that have tapped into the Free Little Library movement to provide book exchanges for readers of all ages.
Judy Hulslander, who previously lived in Stryker before moving to Eureka a while ago, got the ball rolling to get the tiny libraries up and running in her neighborhood. She was introduced to the Free Little Library concept when she was visiting Eugene, Oregon, for the birth of a granddaughter.
Hulslander was intrigued by the concept of these curbside book exchanges, and returned home with the goal of establishing Little Free Libraries in her neck of the woods.
“It’s just a great little idea,” she said. “It’s a worldwide concept.”
Hulslander’s husband Dave built the first tiny library that is next to the Stryker Post Office in that community off U.S. 93 between Whitefish and Eureka.
“The woman who is in charge of looking after it said it was immediately used,” Hulslander said.
Similar library shelters were purchased with donations Hulslander gathered. The Little Free Library in Trego is on the front deck of the new Trego Pub and General Store. In Fortine it is located at the front gate of Fortine School.
“One nice thing, anybody can take or can put books in,” Hulslander noted. “That way there is a circulation of books.”
All three communities are a distance from the closest public libraries in either Eureka or Whitefish.
Little Free Libraries are scattered throughout Flathead Valley neighborhoods.
Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, is credited with building the first little library in 2009 when he made one to look like a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read, according to the Little Free Library website. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. When the free library was embraced friends and neighbors, Bol built several more and gave them away.
Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison then collaborated with Bol.
“They were inspired by community gift-sharing networks, ‘take a book, leave a book’ collections in coffee shops and public spaces, and most especially by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie,” the website noted.
In the early 1900s Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist, set a goal to fund the creation of 2,508 free public libraries across the English-speaking world.
The Wisconsin duo set a similar goal of starting 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end of 2013; they exceeded that number by August 2012.
Little Free Library is now a nonprofit organization that offers information about how to build the book shelters and promotes neighborhood book exchanges around the world.
In 2016 the organization had more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all U.S. states and more than 70 countries.
For more information, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.