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Little library offers neighborly reading

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Ava Bicknell and Jayda Bostic have such a love for reading that they wanted to share their passion with their neighbors.

About three weeks ago, the grandmother-granddaughter team put a painted, wooden box on a post in the side yard of Bicknell's home at 1202 12th St. on Huntington's Southside. The box, also known as a Little Free Library, is a bit larger than a doll house and lets residents share their favorite books.

"We rarely see or talk to our neighbors on a daily basis," says Bostic, a seventh-grader at Huntington St. Joseph Grade School. "Reading is such a common interest that we thought it could bring people in the neighborhood closer together."

Bicknell and Bostic built the miniature library, painted to look like a bistro, with a little help from employees at Savannah's restaurant, which Bicknell owns. Most of the materials were recycled from a neighbor's discarded trash, inserts from wine boxes and some old paint that Bicknell had at her house.

Bicknell and Bostic, both of whom prefer a good mystery or science fiction novel, have made sure the box is stocked with a wide range of books and magazines.

"I subscribe to so many food magazines that I hoard them, as my husband tells me," Bicknell said. "I used to take them to the doctor's office with me and left them in the waiting room. Now, I can just walk to the sidewalk and put them in the library. I like to keep the box full, so I check it every day."

Neighbors who have borrowed books from the Little Free Library are starting to replenish it with favorites of their own. Children's books and anything written by a local author appear to be hot commodities, Bicknell and Bostic said.

Bicknell decided to build a Little Free Library about nine months ago when she read a newspaper article about the worldwide phenomenon. The book-sharing movement was started in 2010 by Tod Bol in Hudson, Wis. Bol and his helpers set out with a mission to see at least 2,510 Little Free Libraries established around the world. That was the target because it would exceed the number of libraries built by Andrew Carnegie.

Bol's group, now a nonprofit organization, estimates that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Little Free Libraries in 36 countries and that more than 1.6 million books were donated and borrowed since its inception, according to littlefreelibrary.org.

The founders of Little Free Library stress on their website that their initiative is meant to enhance, not replace, the traditional public library as government spending for literacy programs is reduced.

The website also provides a map that pinpoints the locations for Little Free Libraries across the globe. The Little Free Library on 12th Street is the third location in West Virginia, according to the map. The other locations are in Charleston and in Paden City.

Bicknell paid a $35 fee to have the library listed on the map. She and Bostic said they hope their efforts will inspire others in Huntington to start their own Little Free Library.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.