McMURRAY – There’s a new library in Peters Township, but those driving past could easily miss it.
Standing near the curb at 883 Old Washington Road, near the Valley Brook Road intersection, is a small structure that resembles an oversize mailbox with shelves that contain nearly 40 books. You don’t need a library card to check one out, just another book with which to replace it.
It’s not a branch of the Washington County Library System – it’s one of the 10,000 Little Free Libraries popping up across the globe.
The book exchange concept originated in 2009, after a Wisconsin man named Todd Bol decided to honor his late mother, a former schoolteacher and avid reader, by building the first Little Free Library. His friend, Rick Brooks, joined the project, and their goal was to have 2,500 built, the same number of libraries Andrew Carnegie built.
Fast forward to 2014, and there are more than 10,000 and growing.
According to the map on littlefreelibrary.com, there are 87 Little Free Libraries in Pennsylvania, two in Washington County, the first of which appeared in November at the entrance at Washington Area Teachers Federal Credit Union on Park Avenue in North Franklin Township.
Now Mark Mamros added a second Little Free Library that he recently built at his Old Washington Road home. Because of the backlog of new libraries being added, he has to wait several weeks before his is placed on the map on the Little Free Library’s website.
“I don’t think anybody knows its here yet, for a couple of reasons. One, we are kind of on a busy street and with the construction (at the Valley Brook Road intersection) we’re a cul-de-sac. Although, a lot of people walk past here on the way to the (Montour) trail,” Mamros said. “We did go through all the steps to officially register. I think once we are on the map, people will start coming by.”
The Mamros family, including Mark’s wife, Rita, and two children – Lizzy, a rising senior at Peters Township High School, and Matt, who just completed his freshman year at Robert Morris University – all had a hand in the project. Lizzy will act as the “steward,” which is Little Free Library speak for “librarian.”
Mamros’ Little Free Library boasts about 40 books of all age levels and genres, and the inventory will be in a constant state of flux as people use the library.
Melissa Polan, marketing manager and sales coordinator at WATFCU, discovered that the Little Free Library and the credit union shared a mission, which inspired her to launch the initiative in Washington.
“The credit union philosophy is cooperative and people helping people,” Polan said. “So the Little Free Library ties in well with what we do here in financial services.”
Upon gathering an assorted collection of books and building the library, Polan spread the word to credit union members.
“If you come to deposit a check or make a loan payment, grab a book on your way out,” Polan said.
In the six months since the library’s opening, turnover remains consistent. Polan has yet to tap into the stack of reserve books under her desk, in case users neglect to bring a book to exchange.
“I’m hoping that people will be aware of the movement. I think the goals are very noble – the sense of community and promoting reading,” Mamros said. “Those are very special ideals, and I’d like to see more Little Free Libraries pop up.”
Mamros’ wish is rooted in a reality. A third Little Free Library is planned for WATFCU’s second office, which will be on Route 19 at Meadows Landing and is forecasted to open in late August or early September.
Polan added that while the libraries are a convenience in Washington, the project has a significant impact globally.
“It’s a really neat (development) here, but we do have a library in Washington,” Polan said. “There are a communities all over the world that (the Free Little Library) is the only way they get their books, so it’s a really neat thing.”