Little libraries: Pockets of joy across Eau Claire and where to find them

Discover the small book exchange system with a large impact for avid readers across the city.


Melanie Walleser

A replica of the home it stands before, Eric Wampler’s favorite Eau Claire little library proudly greets any onlookers that pass by with its smile-like appearance.

With the anticipation of spring and a recent clearing of the snow-covered sidewalks, Eau Claire residents can enjoy the beginnings of spring and return to the city’s many walking trails. While traversing the tree-lined trails, Eric Wampler stumbles across a small wooden house. Nestled between pines and propped up on wooden posts, the house’s shutters and roof are painted forest green to match the neighboring home.

Wampler strides to the door of the little house and opens it as though it were his own. This may seem intrusive, but visitors are more than welcome at this house filled from top-to-bottom with books. 

Despite its charming appearance, this perched house is not a fairytale come to life, but rather one of many little libraries popping up across the globe. Wampler, a Minneapolis native, has been an avid lover of books for years.

“I’ve been a bookworm since I was a kid. I also had so much energy, so I was always running around outside,” Wampler said. “For me, moving from city to city over the years, the thing that always helped a new place feel like home was stumbling upon a little library.”

This take-a-book, leave-a-book system operates through hundreds of individual locations across the country, Eau Claire included. Little libraries can appear in a variety of forms, from book barns to little free pantries and laundromat libraries

Little free libraries can exist independently, or be registered with the Little Free Library 501 Nonprofit Organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since the organization’s founding in 2009, new little library locations have popped up across all seven continents — even the South Pole.

Fortunately, Eau Claire residents don’t need to make a cross-continental trip to access little libraries. To find one close by, residents can visit the map below, which features locations throughout the city.

Don’t see your favorite little library on the map? Reach out to Blugold Media so we can keep the interactive map accurate and up to date.

Wampler is far from the only one finding joy in these little libraries. Carin Keyes, originally from Markesan, Wisconsin, has lived in Eau Claire for seven years. Keyes has had a little library in her own yard for almost two years. 

“All ages come to the Little Library, but my most frequent patrons are retired persons,” Keyes said. “Over 400 books have gone through (my) library in the time it’s been open.”

Keyes and others have taken it upon themselves to open and maintain their own little libraries for the enjoyment of the community. Philip Ruge-Jones, who has been an Eau Claire resident for eight years, moved into a home already equipped with its own little library.

“I am a lover of reading and wanted to share the love,” Ruge-Jones said. “I occasionally get a new book for myself to read out of my library, but mostly it is there to serve my neighbors.”

For Ruge-Jones and Keyes, their love for their community is perpetuated by small kindnesses found within their even smaller libraries. Residents like Wampler can rest easy knowing that pockets of joy can be found all throughout their city, just a stroll away.

Ward can be reached at [email protected].