Tigard and Tualatin are latest to launch Little Free Libraries, small book boxes in neighborhoods all over town

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Barb Zahler opened a small library outside her Bull Mountain home earlier this year. The library is part of the Little Free Library program, which has spread all over the world since it began in 2009Barbara Zahler loves libraries.

As a girl growing up in North Portland, Zahler had a goal to read every book at her local library. As an adult, she regularly volunteers at libraries and reads every chance she gets.

But the longtime Bull Mountain resident has taken her passion one step further. Earlier this year she opened her very own library off Roshak Road.

Zahler’s library is different than a traditional library. At less than 3 feet long it looks more like a large mailbox, with room for only a handful of books inside.

There are no fines for overdue books or librarians hushing patrons, Zahler said. The rules are simple: Take a book, leave a book.

“You don’t even have to leave a book,” Zahler admits. “We have so many. I tell the kids that come by to take as many books as they want.”

Zahler is one of thousands of people around the world to open up small libraries in their neighborhoods.

Known as Little Free Libraries, the idea started in Wisconsin in 2009 and has since blossomed into more than 15,000 libraries in all 50 states and 40 countries.

The practice has stayed relatively quiet in Tigard and Tualatin. Until a few months ago, only a single Little Free Library was listed in Tigard, but that number has since exploded to about a half-dozen in Tigard and Tualatin, including a library inside a Tualatin Starbucks coffee shop.

This month, a new library was unveiled at Bethlehem: House of Bread, the former Metzger church-turned community food pantry, and more are being established.

‘It’s worthwhile’

Zahler opened her library right outside her front door, and says the small structure has brought a lot of joy to her neighborhood.

“I have loved it,” Zahler says. “It’s a gathering spot for people to talk.”

Zahler first learned about Little Free Libraries a few months ago and jumped at the chance to have one of her own.

“I love the concept,” she says. “Books are a great way for people to talk openly about all kinds of things.”

Pick up a book

There are five Little Free Libraries in Tigard and Tualatin, with more popping up.

• Bethlehem: House of Bread food pantry, 9055 S.W. Locust St., in Metzger

• 16487 S.W. Luke Lane, in Tigard

• 6655 S.W. Ventura Drive, in Tigard

• Starbucks, 19321 S.W. Martinazzai Ave., in Tualatin

• 17300 S.W. 107th Ave., in Tualatin.

For more information, or to start a library of your own, visit

Through word of mouth, news of the library began to spread up and down Roshak Road.

“Everyone has books they are willing to donate,” she says. “Someone left me a bag of books the other day. I can’t fit them all in the library, it’s too small. And someone called me the other day and said they have a carload of books for me.”

With planning underway to develop a large portion of Tigard along Southwest Roy Rogers Road, Zahler expects her library will soon become even more popular.

“This will be a through street, eventually,” Zahler says while standing in her small cul-de-sac. “I thought this would be a great way to meet new people and meet our neighbors. It’s worthwhile.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Barb Zahler keeps a mix of adult and childrens books in her Little Free Library in Tigard.

‘Take care of my library’

Laura Baker installed her small library outside her home in Tualatin a few years ago.

Baker volunteers at the Tualatin Public Library and says that what started as a rainy day project for her husband Ross soon became a passion.

“This was a natural extension of (our) love of books,” Baker says. “Especially free books.”

Tucked between Hazelbrook Middle School and Jurgens Park, Baker says her home makes for a great location for a library.

“Complete strangers stop by and thank us,” she notes. “They say how great it looks, ask if they can take a picture of it and, of course, borrow a book.  We’ve met so many new friends just chatting about our Little Free Library.”

Neighbors have taken a sense of ownership in the library, and regularly maintain its collection.

“On a rainy day a couple of years ago, we glanced outside to see a lady picking up books off the ground,” Baker says. “We went out to investigate. She said that when she saw some books scattered on the ground, she had to pull over and ‘take care of my library.’ Now, that’s what it is really all about.”

Back in Tigard, Zahler says she couldn’t imagine taking the library down.

“I love having it in my yard,” Zahler admits. “I think it will be a great tool to make new friends.”

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