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In Montana, this Little Free Library is filled with books and magazines. ANNIE EWBANK FOR ATLAS OBSCURA

WHILE STOPPING FOR GAS IN Wyoming during a recent trip, I glanced at a Pizza Hut across the parking lot and saw something surprising. Pizza Huts tend to be topped with the geometric red roof that’s become the pizza chain’s logo—it’s plastered on restaurants from Riverton, Wyoming, to Rio de Janeiro. This Pizza Hut had the iconic roof. But so did another, tiny Pizza Hut placed in front of the restaurant. Set atop a wooden post, the crate-sized structure was actually a Little Free Library, filled with books that passersby could pick up and exchange.

Little Free Libraries often come in interesting shapes. The first one ever built, by Todd Bol in 2009, was shaped like a one-room schoolhouse, complete with a bell-tower. According to Margret Aldrich, media and program manager at Little Free Library, as well as the author of The Little Free Library Book, “When his mother passed away, he really wanted to figure out a way to honor her memory.” (She was a schoolteacher and avid reader.) That single book-exchange box in Bol’s yard in Hudson, Wisconsin*, grew into a non-profit organization. It has registered 75,000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries, all of which are organized and kept in working order by volunteers.

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