Like a beacon signaling a bookworm’s safe haven, Missoula’s newest little library sits across from Sentinel High School on the neatly manicured lawn of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church – in the form of a tiny, white church.
There are a few stone steps leading up to it and a new bench sitting beside it, beckoning booklovers of all ages to sit and enjoy a chapter or two in the little nook.
A replica of the church’s old building on Alder Street, Missoula’s newest little free library houses dozens of books that passersby can borrow or add to, should they choose to.
And it’s not a new idea. According to the little free library website, littlefreelibrary.org, Missoula already has nine little free libraries. There are hundreds of little free libraries dotting the nation and thousands around the world.
Try the one on Mary Avenue near Lewis and Clark Elementary School, or stop on your way up the Rattlesnake at 2322 Duncan Drive for another tiny library. Both offer dozens of free books for bookworms of all ages to take and replace as they please.
Churchgoer Judy Wellert is this particular little free library’s author. She said she got the idea from her aunt in Wisconsin, who maintains a little free library near a truck stop off an interstate.
“I think a lot of us have a lot of books sitting on our shelves gathering dust.” Wellert said. “But that’s not what books were designed to do. They are designed to be read.”
So Wellert and a few members of their church received a small $250 grant and got to work on the little library nook.
“I probably would have just bought the (little free library) kit and mounted it,” Wellert said. “But Mick (Hanson) told me he could build anything. He regretted those words a couple times throughout the months.”
It took Wellert, fellow churchgoer Hanson and several other people about a month to build and paint the tiny church-shaped library. They had enough wood left over to construct a small bench next to the library.
It was erected Sept. 7 and as far as little free libraries go, this particular one is in a prime location.
Located next to a bus stop, across the street from a high school and Missoula College, it’s already picking up traction from young adults and teens who study and traverse nearby. And that’s kind of the point, explained the church’s Christian education director, Sonja Wolsky.
“We are just trying to be a little more open to our neighbors,” Wolsky said.
Wellert was out Wednesday passing out water bottles to people getting on and off the bus, hoping to pique her neighbors’ interest in the variety of books offered at the little library.
It’s neighborly love, not evangelism supporting the idea, explained Wellert. So the books in the little nook serve a wide array of interests.
There are books for children, like C.S. Lewis’ “Prince Caspian,” and books for adults, like “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and some for teens too, she said.
But that’s not to say this library isn’t free from a little bit of censorship.
“We know we will have to keep an eye on it to make sure that books that are in the little library are appropriate,” she said.