You may have noticed little houses filled with books, often in front of big houses (which are also usually filled with books), on your daily commute or when out walking the dog. 

Each is a tiny library, with shelves open for anyone to grab a book and return it when they're done. Officially, each should be called a Little Free Library, but it seems the community has gone rogue, and many of the area's little lenders are not registered with the non-profit organization.  

Some are painted with book scenes like the one at 1201 S. Bozeman Ave. in Bozeman, which features Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Madeline and more. Others match the houses behind them. Some are weathered, others newly built. Each is unique.

Inside, they may have themes based on the owners. Elementary schools like Winans in Livingston and Hyalite in Bozeman have little libraries filled with kids books. 

There's a library in front of the Montana State University Health Advancement office at 1102 S. Sixth Ave. 

"We try to promote health and well-being in all aspects of our students' lives and that includes reading," said Danika Comey, a health education specialist. 

The library was built by a former intern. Inside, along with a variety of novels, memoirs and the like, expect to find cookbooks stocked by staff nutritionists.

Chris Delaney has a polka-dot painted library in front of her house at 415 N. Third Ave. She is debating painting the house to match. The library was built by a renter, Jeff, from an old book case after Delaney saw one and thought the idea was "fabulous."  

Delaney said the library has increased her sense of community in the neighborhood. One day, as she was leaving the house, Delaney noticed the library was almost empty and put a call out on Facebook. 

"That night, it was completely packed," she said. "People love to be a part of it."

Last week, Bozeman bookstore Country Bookshelf put out a call on its Facebook page, but instead of needing books, the store wants to give them away to stock the area's little libraries. According to event coordinator Jessica Hahl, the store has piles of advance copies of books, often by local authors. But the books can not be sold. 

The libraries, Hahl said, "support literacy and the love of books in the community... They're a great way to remind folks reading is fun."

And that is right in line with the mission of the bookstore. 

Mary Dardone at 216 S. Third Ave. said she and husband Bill Platte saw Delaney's library on North Third and decided they needed one in their yard near the Emerson. 

"A lot of people walk by and we always have extra books," she said.

They often chat with people who stop by and enjoy decorating the library. While the initial idea was to clear the shelves inside, the library seems to keep itself stocked. People have also been known to leave books especially for a 12-year-old girl who lives down the street. 

"It's been a nice kind of community thing," Dardone said.  

The community does seem to rally behind the library owners. Jessica Stillman was dismayed when someone emptied the books from her busy library at 1201. S. Grand Ave., on a main artery for students heading to campus. The books were thrown across the road in the middle of the night. But before she could get dressed and outside to right the 2:30 a.m. wrong, a couple had stopped to pick them up. 

That is the only instance of a negative experience recounted in these interviews. And Stillman prefers to focus on the positive, like the thank-you notes left inside. 

"It brings me so much joy," she said. "It really does."

Woodworking hobbyist Robert DeWit has created a network of three libraries in Manhattan. They're whimsical wooden creations he likens to hobbit houses.  

"I just enjoy doing that kind of stuff and I wish people would read more," he said. 

The first was in front of his Pine Street home. Then he branched out to the coffee hit on Broadway, and finally to Parkhaven, a retirement community. Each has a different clientele and he enjoys seeing how they change. 

"Some people basically donate, others basically take, some do both," DeWit said. "It's all good."

In Livingston, Kris King has a little stack of extra books to refill her library at the corner of Fifth and Chinook streets, but she rarely uses them. 

"There's always a few more books in than out," she said. 

Instead, she switches out books that don't seem to be popular, adding in kids books she picked up for free at The Community Closet, a Livingston thrift store. "Ramona the Pest," she said, is a favorite. 

"I always grab it if I see it," she said. 

King had her boyfriend, Livingston artist Edd Enders, build and paint the library a few years ago as a way to make living on a busy corner feel more positive. The weather "beat down" the first one, but the latest iteration has weather-stripping to help keep out the wind and the rain and the snow. 

Greg Smith won a beautification award for his library at 423 N. Black Ave., a little yellow thing across from Beall Park. The library was made from a dismantled ramp Smith built for friend Archie. Now, Smith imagines Archie reading by the light of a streetlamp on a bench next to the library. 

He seeded the library with books of his own, Western history and contemporary and science fiction, but the library then took on a life of its own. While there are libraries scattered around the area, Smith feels the idea has a special kinship to the north side, with its clotheslines and chickens and neighbors talking over fences. 

"I kind of think Little Free Libraries promote that spirit of connectivity in neighborhoods," he said. 

If Smith's library has a theme, it would be caring about place, especially wilderness and wild places. If Smith comes across copies of Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" or Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire," they find their way onto the shelves. 

"Books do no good sitting on floors," he said. "They should be shared and read, good stories told and passed around."

Find the libraries on a Google map here. If you have one you would like to add, email the exact address to If you would like books from Country Bookshelf to stock your free library, email

Rachel Hergett is the editor of Ruckus, the arts and culture publication of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She can be reached at or (406) 582-2603.

Rachel Hergett can be reached at or at 406-582-2603. Hergett is on Twitter at @hergett.