Anyone who is in a hurry to reach Jefferson Hospital's cafeteria after stepping off the second-floor elevators is likely to miss a new amenity at the hospital.
A five-shelf bookcase outside of the elevators serves as a Little Free Library in the high-traffic area of the hospital in Jefferson Hills.
The rules of the library are displayed on the bookcase: Take a book. Leave a book. Return it at your convenience, or pass it along to another reader. Enjoy!
Anyone is welcome to take a book from the Little Free Library, which was launched in February by Jefferson Hills Public Library. Borrowers are under no obligation to return the book to the hospital or to provide a replacement in the bookcase, although either act is appreciated.
The nonprofit Little Free Library program began in 2010 as a worldwide effort to offer free, donated books in compact receptacles. It is estimated that 10,000 Little Free Libraries have been launched worldwide.
Last month, Jefferson Hospital's bookcase, which the hospital purchased, held roughly 100 donated books, including ''Clear and Present Danger'' by Tom Clancy, ''An Inconvenient Truth'' by Al Gore and ''No Greater Love'' by Danielle Steel. Children's fare, such as ''Dora the Explorer'' books, are on the bottom shelf for easy perusal by youngsters.
''It's nice because, as a health care organization, we also have a responsibility to educate ... ,'' said Michael Evans, the hospital's vice president of patient experience and support services.
After reading about the Little Free Library effort, Jane Milner, program coordinator for Jefferson Hills Public Library, came up with the idea for public library to launch its first Little Free Library.
''I thought, 'Where would be a great place to start a Little Library? Wouldn't a hospital be great, where people are confined and stressed and sitting around waiting?' " she said. ''Reading is a good way to pass time."
Most of the books at the hospital so far have been donated by Jefferson Hills Public Library, which received them from residents who learned about the project.
The Friends of Jefferson Hills Library volunteered to supplement the books with those that have been donated to the group for its annual sale, which will be held Friday through Sunday.
Ms. Milner estimated that people have been taking 50 books a week and returning or replacing about 30 books a week.
Each book has a green bookmark with the Free Little Library rules, and the address and hours of the Jefferson Hills Public Library.
''It's been very well-received. We have some seating, so someone always has a book in hand — whether a patient or visiting family members or employees, " Mr. Evans said. "It's been used by all three constituents."
Ms. Milner said the library would like to establish other Little Free Libraries in Jefferson Hills. Suggestions for sites should be directed to her at the library, she said.
For information on the Little Free Library project: littlefreelibrary.org. For information on Jefferson Hills Public Library or the annual book sale: www.jeffersonhillslibrary.org. To donate books to Jefferson Hills Public Library, take them to the library, 925 Old Clairton Road.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.