Quaker Valley student hopes little library can make big impact

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

“Wow, OK!” was Annie Hrabosky's first reaction when she saw the colorful Little Free Library stuffed with books behind the Edgeworth municipal building.

As she walked by thelibrary — built by junior Mia Fox, 16, of Leetsdale for her Quaker Valley High School sophomore project — the middle school student stopped to look at the large birdhouse-looking structure sitting atop a wooden post. She then asked if she could check out a book.

Fox told her she could take one of the books home and, maybe later, bring one back that she doesn't want anymore for someone else to read. Planning to come back and get a book later, Annie said, “I like it. I think it's cool.”

That's just the kind of reaction the daughter of Susan and Hans Fox was seeking.

Fox, who loves to read and hopes to have a career as a teacher, mostly built the library herself.

“But I needed help with the power tools, so my dad helped me with that,” she said.

A cross country runner who participates in school musicals, Fox said she isn't the only one who has created a Little Free Library.

“They call it the Little Free Library movement,” said Fox, who now is known as a library steward. “This is happening worldwide — in every state and several countries.

To be able to erect one officially, participants must log onto the website, www.littlefreelibrary.org, register for $34.95 and sign up for a charter number. Each participant receives a steward's package, and the steward's job is to build the library, maintain it and keep it running.

Library stewards are sent small, Amish-made wooden signs to attach to the library. They feature their own charter number; the words Little Free Library; its website; the phrases “Take a Book, Return a Book” and “Celebrating Healthier Neighborhoods”; and pictures of a book, a bench and gazebo.

The location of each official Little Free Library is included in a map so people can log onto the website and see the locations of all the Little Free Libraries.

“Each library is so unique. I saw one on the website that used a hollowed-out grandfather clock,” Fox said. Stewards can order a library from the website.

Fox's library features mostly recycled materials. The roof features shingles Fox saved when her home's roof was redone. The orange-red, yellow and blue-green colors came from “cheerful” leftover paint, and the little door in front was saved from a recent kitchen renovation. The wooden post is from an old fence.

The blue-green bird used as a handle was purchased, Fox said, just because she thought it would be cute and would draw people to the box, in addition to the bright colors.

On the sides of the library, Fox painted several quotes: “Never trust anyone who has not brought book with them,” by Lemony Snicket, her favorite author when she was younger, and “There is no friend as loyal as a book,” by Ernest Hemingway.

The library features a small heart painted on one side and clouds and branches that lead to the back of the structure, which features an owl as a symbol of knowledge.

Fox, who started out putting her own books in the library, said she was surprised to see twice as many books there than the day before — especially children's books.

She said it's the perfect place for the library, with a backdrop of a flower bush, lilies and a bench on which to sit and read in the Chestnut Road parklet.

She said she originally heard about the idea on television but had forgotten about it. When it was time to think of an idea for her project, her mother reminded her, but, Fox said, she thought it would be “too minuscule,” until she began her research.

“I just fell in love with the idea of how it helps promote the community and get people together.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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