Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Birthday, Robert Jordan!

Although he sadly passed away too soon in 2007, we should still take a moment to acknowledge the birthday of fantasy author Robert Jordan (October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007).  His Wheel of Time series has been a perennial best-seller on the New York times book list, and his intricate stories and engrossing characters have forever established him as one of America’s most prodigious and prolific contributors to the fantasy genre.

Although Mr. Jordan has passed on, his wife and other contributors have continued The Wheel of Time series, driving it toward its eventual conclusion using his copious plot notes.  Folks interested in epic level fantasy with high-powered magic and plenty of action might want to give The Eye of the World a shot.  If you like this first book in The Wheel of Time series and don’t mind the sometimes meandering story and occasional dangling plot hooks, you’ll likely find the rest of the series to your liking!

Prior to his own epic series, Mr. Jordan earned acclaim for three excellent Conan novels.  CLP owns a collected edition of these three books.

Despite his untimely death, Mr. Jordan’s legacy of hard work lives on in his stories.  Happy Birthday, Robert Jordan!


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While You Were Sleeping

Good morning Pittsburgh!  While you were sleeping, a dedicated group of hardcore library supporters stayed up all night reading to the people…and they’re still reading.  That’s right.  As we slowly inch toward sunrise, and with less than six hours to go, Pittsburghers from all walks of life are reading, staffing volunteer tables, and learning about the Our Library, Our Future voter initiative.

Here are just a few of the overnight highlights:

  • Sci-fi and fantasy ruled the wee hours, from Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams to C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. 
  • Nerdfighters.  Who knew?
  • Poignant readings from The Hunger Games, The Book of Lost Things, and The Fifth Agreement
  • Two words:  David Conrad.  Hilarity ensued!
  • Classic literature from Twain, Salinger and Burroughs
  • Loads of giddy, caffeinated, and/or sleep-deprived laughter and banter

Green with envy?  It’s not too late!  We’ll be reading to the people until noon today, so stop by Main Library in Oakland.  Upcoming highlights include children’s books and family-friendly fun, a visit from some local luminaries, and a grand finale that will knock your socks off.

Hope to see you soon!  If you simply can’t, please check us out, and spread the word, on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Leigh Anne

blogging and yawning.


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Whole Lotta Readin’ Goin’ On

If you haven’t made it to Oakland for Read to the People yet, you are missing the most enthusiastic, exciting show of library support since Andrew Carnegie dedicated Main Library. Here are just a few highlights from this afternoon and evening’s readings:

  • The Pirate Parrot’s vivacious pantomime of “Casey at the Bat.”
  • The Toonseum’s Joe Wos drawing a magical tale of a fairy flower princess.
  • Councilman R. Daniel Lavalle reading Langston Hughes
  • Lynn Cullen reading David McCullough
  • Kristofer Collins reading from the poetry of Frank O’Hara
  • A dramatic reading from Time Stand Still, the play currently in production at City Theatre, by two of the show’s lead actors.
  • A birthday celebration (really)!
  • Lots and lots of fireworks (really)!
  • A whole hour of readings by local fashion designers.

As I type, there’s an hour of poetry afoot.  If you can make it down here tonight or tomorrow, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  There are so many interesting readers and readings, as well as so much unintentional hilarity, that I can barely keep up recording it!

With a big thanks to everyone who read today, and with gratitude for those readers yet to come, I remain your faithful onsite blogger.  I’m headed back outside to take pictures and serve as the timer in hour twelve, the halfway mark.

Leigh Anne

who read from The Odyssey, but drank not of the wine-dark sea

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And They’re Off!

Just in case you weren’t here for the Read to the People kickoff, here’s a small sample of what you’ve missed!

State Senator Jay Costa
Senator Jay Costa reading from Andrew Carnegie
After Senator Costa’s opening remarks, the reading was on. And on, and on, and on!  So far today we’ve heard snippets of Lord of the Flies, The Skin I’m In, The Vagina Monologues, and other titles both classic and contemporary.  Between bouts of rain, the sun is shining fiercely, and the readers and volunteers remain undaunted.
To keep up with the deluge of photos we’re uploading, check out our Flickr set!  And if you’re a video fan, you’ll want to keep an eye on our YouTube channel.  If you’re coming to the Read-Aloud and want to upload your own video to YouTube, please tag your creation with the phrase “read to the people.”  And if you’re more of the photo-sharing kind, please tag us on Facebook as Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  Twitter user?  Tag your tweet #read1440, and don’t forget to follow @OLOFPA.
Leigh Anne
whose favorite reading so far today was Brian O’Neill’s excerpts from his own work, The Paris of Appalachia.

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All Day, And All of the Night: Read to the People

What do Urban Mommies, a famous Froggy, and a local mystery maven have in common?  They’ll all be making an appearance at Read to the People, the 24-hour read-a-thon that begins today at noon.  That’s right:  144 volunteer readers, including many local celebrities, signed up for a collective 1,440 minutes of reading out loud to raise awareness of the Our Library, Our Future voter initiative.   That’s 24 hours of library love.  Makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

I’m biased, of course.  But, quite frankly, even if I didn’t work here, I’d still visit every day.  For starters,  you’d better believe I’d be getting my money’s worth from the library.  The amount of money I save on books alone is so embarrassingly high I’m surprised it’s not illegal:  $850 per every fifty books checked out on my card.  That makes the cost of a Donor Plus membership look, by comparison, decidedly affordable.  Add in the value of free internet access, free magazines and research journals, free cultural/educational programming, and all the other free perks that come with library membership? I’d be a fool not to spend my time here (especially if I were actually searching for a new job).

It’s the intangibles that matter most to me, though, namely my emotional attachment to the library as a palace of letters and light.  Illusory though it may be, it comforts me to think that, in our frazzled, consumption-driven world, there is still one place where any citizen may go and be treated with courtesy and respect.  One haven where, if they’re willing to work and learn, people can teach themselves anything they care to know.  A sanctuary that values both quiet spaces and noisy, cheerful, collaborative ones.  A place for children to dream and explore, and for adults to remember how to dream and explore.  A safe space to navigate the sometimes muddy waters of being a teen (and, of course, to have fun while doing so).  A place where, no matter how many times you’ve failed, you can always start over.

As lovely as all that sounds, I know that libraries can’t sustain themselves on dreams and illusions.  They need you:  your time, your ear, your voice, your donations, your vote.  That’s why I’m part of the volunteer crew staying up all night for Read to the People:  I love the library so much, I’m not content to be with it in the daytime. I’m going to stay up all night to support it, and so are a lot of your friends and neighbors.  Won’t you join us?

In conjunction with the brouhaha, Eleventh Stack will update frequently this weekend with photos and short posts about read-aloud festivities.  You can also get read-aloud tidbits on Facebook and Twitter, and participate virtually by retweeting and sharing links and photos in your social networks.  Spread the word, and we hope to see you soon, either outside or online!

—Leigh Anne

serendipitously celebrating nine years of library employment today

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Power to the People

The Occupy Wall Street protest has been going strong for several weeks now, and in the past few years we’ve seen a whole new political party grow out of a grassroots movement.  No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, it’s pretty empowering to see such change being affected by ordinary folks. 

Social movements have been such a huge part of American history that it’s hard to think of what the country would be like without them.  The United States of America was practically founded on a protest, and could you imagine how different our lives would be if the civil rights movement or the women’s movement had never taken place?  This is just a short reading list on social movements, but we have many more resources where they came from! 

Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age: One of the things that has helped recent grassroots organizations gain so much momentum is the Interent and social networking.  We’re no longer limited to meeting in a physical space, and spreading the word about social activisim is easier than ever (just look at the last Presidential election).  This book examines how the digital world has affected political grassroots movements. 

The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle: Music, poetry, film, and paintings are among the most memorable and tangible artifacts to emerge from protest movements.  The Civil Rights movement, AIDS awareness campaigns, and the Chicano movement are among the movements discussed in this book.

Voices of Protest: Documents of Courage and Dissent: This is a collection of documents from such wide-ranging figures as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rachel Carson, and Ronald Regan. The book includes documents from ancient times to the present, from conservatives and liberals alike, so it’s a great introduction to protest literature. 

The Fire This Time: Feminists and the New Activism: This book focuses on the Third Wave of the women’s movement, but also writes of current issues within a historical context.  It’s a great outline of some of the current grassroots activism that’s happening in the feminist arena, and the section on how these issues are affecting women globally is especially gripping. 

Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America: The summer of 1919 could be seen as the kick-off to the Civil Rights movement.  During that year, racial unrest spread through the country.  African Americans began to fight back, fighting violence with violence in many cases, but also organizing politically through the NAACP.  This book isn’t for the faint of heart– the violence described is brutal– but it’s worth a read to learn about events that are largely forgotten these days.



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The Piano Quartet: A Winning Combination

If an orchestra is like a giant horde of laborers erecting a mighty pyramid and a recital by a soloist is like a spider weaving an intricate web, then a chamber music performance is like a few proud workers building a well-crafted cottage.

Often when folks think of chamber music, they think of string quartets.  For you classical music neophytes, the string quartet is traditionally 2 violins, a viola and a cello.  It’s a well regarded ensemble with lots of works written for it: from the Haydn and Mozart string quartets of the classical era to the masterpieces of Beethoven to the 20th century cleverness of Shostakovich and beyond.

But let me be almost sacrilegiously honest.  All that stringy sawing in my ears can sometimes be a bit much.  I feel the same way about the incessant plinking of solo piano works.  What’s a composer or listener to do?  Combine the two.

Thus I’m a fan of piano trios and piano quartets.  The piano trio is not 3 pianos but rather violin, cello and piano.  And the piano quartet is not 4 pianos; it’s violin, viola, cello and piano.  And of the two, the piano quartet is somewhat neglected so let me recommend some for you to check out:

Of course, there are many more piano quartets in our CD collection, but that should give you a start with this fine art form.

– Tim


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Be exquisitely literate.

Radio CLP PodcastBe exquisitely literate with Radio CLP, the brand new official podcast of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. You probably already love the popular podcast versions of radio shows like This American Life, The Moth and Radiolab. Maybe you also listen to the ones The New York Times and NPR offer. Well, now you can bring the library straight to your ears with your mp3 player or computer!

Get a professional’s take on your next favorite book with our librarians’ reviews. Hear beloved authors talk about the story behind their books. Listen to words come to life in our poetry readings. Episodes will include excerpts from our entertaining and informative events, like the Sunday Poetry and Reading Series and People’s University lectures. We’ll also feature essays and book reviews by your favorite librarians and occasional collaborations with Eleventh Stack. Some episodes will feature readings and talks from national authors who have visited the library as guests of Writers LIVE @ CLP – Main.

We’ve already made two episodes available: “It’s about a time machine repairman,” Don‘s review of Charles Yu’s novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,  and “Time is a goon, right?” Tara‘s review of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. We’ll upload a new episode every Wednesday. Check us out on iTunes or the Radio CLP page, and be sure to subscribe so you catch every one. Enjoy!

- Renée


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Rivers, Dammed and Redeemed

1855 Colton Plan Map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cincinnati, Ohio


There are two kinds of rivers. One meanders over a broad course, navigable by boats and barges. Rivers like this run slow and long, like the ones that surround my home town, Pittsburgh. The Allegheny totals 325 miles, the Monongahela, 128. The Ohio rambles a thousand miles before it finds the Mississippi.

The other type of river tumbles down steep hills. Icy, swift, and relatively short, with headwaters high in the mountains, traffic on this kind of river is limited to white water rafting.


Fast or slow, short or long, almost every large river in the U.S. is dammed. Seventy-five thousand large dams (higher than 6 feet), and many thousand smaller dams interrupt our country’s rivers and streams. Dams alter water temperatures, reduce water levels, and change the flow of rivers, causing coastal erosion. Some block fish from migrating. Today, many dams are old and unsafe, or no longer serve their original purposes. Only three percent now generate electricity.

With more miles of rivers and streams than any state in the continental U.S., Pennsylvania features 3,200 dams. Many were built more than 100 years ago to supply power for grain mills. Others provided water for drinking and irrigation, flood protection, and hydroelectric power. In 2010, thirty dams were removed in Pennsylvania, more than in any other state.


A national dam removal movement is gaining momentum. Benefits of dam removal include restoring river health and clean water, revitalizing fish and wildlife, and improving public safety and recreation. Currently in the U.S., more dams are being removed than built. By the end of this year, 1000 dams will have been removed in the U.S.

Map of the Elwha River and tributaries with dams. Image US National Park Service.

News from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where I grew up, landed on the front page of national newspapers last month. The Elwha River, which supplies water to the region, is the site of the largest dam removal project in North America. After two years of preparation, contractors started the three-year process of simultaneously removing two huge dams (210 and 108 feet tall), which will open 70 miles of wild salmon habitat in pristine Olympic National Park. These dams were erected in 1913 and 1927, without fish ladders, so for 100 years the ecosystem of the largest watershed in the Park has lacked fish life. Hiking beside the river, you might not notice anything missing. But without fish, the river contains no food for native black bear or bald eagles.

Prior to construction of the dams, which were erected to supply power to timber and paper industries, the National Park Service estimates that 400,000 salmon migrated annually up the 45-mile river that links the Olympic Mountains to the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Pacific Ocean. The Elwha River currently supports only about 3,000 salmon, confined to five miles of habitat below the lower dam.

The effort to restore the Elwha is the product of more than 20 years of planning and collaboration on a local and national level. The project will help draw the map for future dam removal and river restoration throughout the nation.

Hydroelectric power plant and dam on the Elwha River near Port Angeles. 1914. University of Washington Digital Archives, photographer Asahel Curtis, 1874-1941.

Elwha Dam, 2005. Photo by Larry Ward, Lower Elwha Fisheries Office, Wikimedia Commons.

Elwha Dam Web Cam. This image is updated every hour or so, making it possible to follow the Dam's dismantling.



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One leg at a time.

I am notoriously uninterested in fashion, and the fact that I’m writing a post about it is probably amusing to a few people.  What can I possibly have to say when I pretty much wear the same black shirt and khaki pants every day?  But recently I’ve decided that dressing well is a skill like any other, and I’m determined to get better at it.

I’ve made similar declarations before, but I’ve always been scared off by seemingly everyone’s insistence that I get myself a wrap dress and some high heels to wear to work.  (Now there’s a thought that should amuse some people who know me.)  Or I’d become discouraged by the rarity of comfortable shoes for the wide-footed.  And I won’t even get into the festival of horrors that is shopping for women’s pants.  So because the things I’m “supposed to” wear are unappealing and / or uncomfortable, I always assumed fashion in general was not for me, and I absolved myself of having any interest in it.

Of course, after a certain age, one’s wittiest t-shirt and “good” jeans no longer serve for all occasions.  I’ve been in pleasant denial about it until now, but apparently business casual waits for no man.  At the very least I want to learn the theory behind the so-called experts’ recommendations, so I can select nicer black shirts and khaki pants.  But can someone with no innate “sense” learn to understand fashion?

As always, I believe a question like that can only begin to be answered by mounting an expedition to the nonfiction section.  Here’s what I’ve found so far:

What I Wore: Four Seasons, One Closet, Endless Recipies for Personal Style by Jessica Quirk

Jessica Quirk’s book (named after her influential blog) is what she calls “a cookbook for your closet.”  She uses fashion sketches to suggest a core wardrobe for each season, and explores how individual pieces can work together to create a wide range of looks.  Her personal style is well-developed, but not too far out of most people’s workday comfort zones.

Style Clinic: How to Look Fabulous All the Time, At Any Age, for Any Occasion by Paula Reed.

In the introduction Reed declares that “fashion is a fleeting pleasure.  Style is like an enduring affair with someone who loves you back.”  This small volume is packed with photographs illustrating the finer points of those enduring classics, what is flattering to your unique shape and why, and dressing your age without “floating off into a fashion wilderness, never again to emerge from a shroud of tweeds and sensible shoes.”


Nothing to Wear?: a 5-Step Cure for the Common Closet and Work It!: Visual Therapy’s Guide to Your Ultimate Career Wardrobe by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo

Nothing to Wear? and Work It! are the enthusiastically-punctuated work of Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, the duo behind Visual Therapy.  (They also wrote Life in Color, which might still be on more shelves if the title had included an ampersand.  Who can say.)  Work It! demonstrates how small changes can have a dramatic impact on an “ordinary” style.  And I’d already heard the advice from countless books and TV shows, but Nothing to Wear‘s approach to “editing” a wardrobe finally motivated me to empty my closet and start over.

The process of filling in gaps is going to take time and effort, especially since I still refuse to wear that dress.  But after my exploratory mission to TT 507, I think I might be able to identify some alternatives… eventually.



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