Little front-yard library makes big impression in Regent Square


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The rules for the Word House are simple: Take one. Leave one.

In Regent Square, where Rick McGee and Lisa Ciccarelli built a free little library in the front yard of their Biddle Avenue house, people are doing just that.

The couple placed the library -- a waterproof wooden house set atop a post, complete with a red roof, glass door and two shelves with about 25 books inside -- outside their home in early June.

Then they watched as dog walkers, stroller pushers, runners, bike riders and even people in cars discovered the box. A month and a half later, the original books are gone, and the library has been getting a regular rotation of new reads.

"This is a great way to share books," said Mr. McGee, who said he got the idea for the Word House when he saw his uncle post a photograph on Facebook of a library box in St. Paul, Minn.

It turns there is a mini-library movement, and although they may be small in size, they are large in numbers.

Tod Bol of Hudson, Wisc., whose background is in international business development, built the first little library in his yard in 2009 as a memorial to his mother, a school teacher. People seemed to love it, so he and friend Rick Brooks of Madison, Wisc., whose specialties as outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin include social entrepreneurship work, decided to create the Little Free Library project.

On the website, littlefreelibrary.org, they encourage people to build their own little libraries, and since its launch more than 2,500 libraries have been built in all 50 states and 32 countries, Mr. Brooks said. A map on their website shows many of the locations of the little libraries.

They promote reading, he said, but they also create more tightly knit communities by giving neighbors a place to gather and talk.

In Regent Square, where Mr. McGee, who works in architectural lighting design, and his wife, Ms. Ciccarelli, who works in insurance, have lived since 1994, the free library has helped them meet more of their neighbors.

The reaction to the Word House has been "fantastic," said Joe Davis, who lives in the neighborhood and owns Biddle's Escape, a recently opened coffee shop down the street from the Word House.

"It further creates Regent Square as this very family-friendly, loving, multicultural community where everyone just appreciates each other," he said.

And what does the big free library -- the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- think about the little free library?

"I think that any time that people have the opportunity to read, I think that's a good thing," said spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes.

books - neigh_city

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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