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The Missoula Public Library is putting notable Montana books on the map - a digital map.

The library launches this week the Montana Authors Project, a literary map for Big Sky books. Other states and regions have recorded the geography of their literature, and project manager Karl Olson had noticed the online collections.

"So I thought that Montana certainly deserved to have an interactive map as well, since we have such a rich literary heritage," said Olson, a library assistant.

See the first phase of mapped books at www.missoulapubliclibrary.org/map . In a Montana Festival of the Book event Friday, the library shares the history of the project and demonstrates the map, which is a new way to experience Montana books as well as a digital tool that furthers one mission of the library.

"Libraries are really, really interested in all kinds of literacy, and that includes computer literacy, Web literacy," Olson said. "So the notion of taking books that are basically published in paper and giving them another medium is something that is a priority for a public library like ours."

One of the five books on the map is Debra Magpie Earling's "Perma Red." When you click on her name or the name of the book, a map pops up. Click on "Dixon Bar," and you'll see a picture of the setting and read this excerpt:

"She would go to the Dixon Bar and have a beer, maybe two. She thought about the burn of hard, clean whiskey. She thought about dancing and drinking and drinking until the dim bar glowed. She was so happy she would dance barefoot to Dixon. Suddenly the world was good. She stepped off the porch like a whisper."

The citation notes the quote comes from Page 115 of "Perma Red," a 2002 BlueHen Books publication. Want to know more about Magpie Earling herself? See the website sidebar:

"Earling began writing ‘Perma Red' in 1984. It was rewritten nine times and edited from 800 to 288 pages. One version of the manuscript was lost in a house fire. Still, Earling persevered and the book went on to be a remarkable success."

Olson said the library sought a diverse selection, books that represented both old stories and new ones, as well as different parts of Montana. "Breaking Clean" by Judy Blunt and "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean are among the mapped books.

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The Montana Authors Project will grow in the future and continue to map a wide variety of books. Olson said choosing the books isn't easy, but the goal is to grow the diverse collection.

The library first ran a pilot in conjunction with One Book Montana's 2009 reading selection, "The Surrounded," by D'Arcy McNickle. Then, it pitched a larger project to Humanities Montana and secured a $5,000 grant.

"One of Montana's biggest assets is the state's stories and storytellers," notes the grant request. "As economic resources and political influences fluctuate, our literary heritage is a reliable benefit to all Montanans, of all backgrounds, and an attraction for visitors."

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

 

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