Now Streaming @ Your Library

Binge watching.

Apple trying get its own “pipeline” in Comcast’s cable infrastructure.

Netflix accounting for up to half of broadband traffic during peak hours.

These are just a couple of concrete signs that we’re in the midst of a big shift in the way we watch TV, which is big news when you consider that TV watching accounts for about one sixth of the typical American’s day. Evidently streaming is where it’s at.

This isn’t a new story — WNYC’s excellent syndicated radio show On The Media (which you can catch locally on WESA) did a great roundup of the various new ways in which people are watching tv almost two years ago,  and the conclusion even then was that streaming models were disrupting the industry in a big way. And anecdotally, I have noticed that a number of my more media-savvy friends have cut their cable TV packages and replaced them with a carefully curated selection of streaming services: a little Hulu here, a dash of Amazon Prime, and a heaping helping of Netflix. Even the most avid TV watchers (or perhaps especially those alpha couch potatoes) are finding a lot to like about a la carte programming served up over broadband.

And while the Library was in fact an early supporter of binge viewing — how can you not watch episode after episode when there’s an impending due date and 100 holds on your DVD? — the world of streaming video so far has not worked with our business model, namely that of free access to content.

Until now, that is.

Eleventh Stack readers, allow me to introduce you to digital streaming at the Library, the latest addition to our eCLP lineup.

Now you can access free feature films, TV shows, and music with your valid library card from any Allegheny County Library. Here’s how it works:

  • Visit the the Library’s landing page for all things digital, eCLP. Click on the link for streaming media.
  • Register an account using your library card number and PIN. Please contact our Customer Services department if you have need to update your account or reset your PIN.
  • If you plan to watch or listen on an Android or iOS mobile device, download the appropriate app; there are direct links on the streaming video site. A Kindle Fire app is said to be under development, as is compatibility with Roku, ChromeCast, and gaming consoles.
  • Search, browse, and “check out” videos and albums. Each cardholder can access up to eight items a month; you generally have three days to watch a movie (with some exceptions) and seven days to listen to an album.

There’s great stuff in there, especially things that appeal to those “long tail” interests that often get buried in commercial services. I’m planning to blow my April allotment on the following:

  • Seasons 1 and 2 of the UK Office television series. The American series was the only TV show I regularly watched for about a decade, from around the time of the 14th season of the Simpsons until Parks and Rec started up a few years ago. I hear the English one is even more cringe-worthy than our version, and I can’t wait.
  • Monster Black Holes, a National Geographic Special. Because, Black Holes.
  • A Perfect World, a 1993 Kevin Costner film that I remember liking when it came out but I have absolutely no recollection of why.
  • Robert Altman’s head-scratching live-action Popeye from 1980. I consider Segar’s Popeye comics and (most of) Altman’s films to be iconic Americana, and then there’s this combination of the two, and it is…something.
  • Bill Cunningham’s New York. Cunningham, who rides around on his bike and takes pictures of people wearing interesting clothes on the streets of Manhattan for the New York Times, seems to be one of the last holdouts of the old, weird, art-damaged New York City of legend. Watch this documentary about him!
  • A couple of albums — electro/punk/dance band Liars new album Mess, because their releases are consistently interesting and usually scary, and, from the Remembering the 90’s Collection, Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly, because I think I left my copy in one of those big CD binders in a friend’s car at some point around the beginning of the millennium.

Of course, what will actually probably happen is, in a moment of weakness, my daughter will convince me to get 8 seasons worth of Calliou, Madeline, or Sid the Science Kid. And who cares if it does happen? I’ll get another eight tries at streaming media greatness next month. And besides, I can always keep my Freegal allotment for myself.

So add the library to your list of streaming media sources!

Also, if you’re interested in online resources, read more about our plan to go 100% digital by 2016 by getting rid of all of our print books, DVDs, CDs, and other physical materials here.

-Dan, who guarantees that 99% of this post is not an April Fools’ Day joke.



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The Books We Turned To When Our World Stopped Turning

We left the developmental pediatrician’s office holding two things:

A diagnosis (“your son has clinical features of autism spectrum disorder“) and a practically translucent handout photocopied so many times that the information was hardly readable through our tears.

What we didn’t have in those very early days, thanks to the renowned specialist we consulted for our then 2-year-old boy, was hope.

This was a decade ago, in early 2004. It would be awhile before I completed my medical degree from the University of Google, I wasn’t blogging yet, and social media hadn’t exploded into the share-every-detail-of-your-family’s-lives-behemoth that it is now. Even if I had, the notion of sharing my family’s autism journey (which I now do, in various publications and blogs) was still too new.

At that moment – and in the days and months and years afterward – what I needed and what I craved most were the experiences of other families. I was on a quest for information, absolutely, but also the experiences and knowledge of others who were a few mile markers down this potholed, curvy New Normal Road that my family was driving down without a GPS (we didn’t have that either).

During those days and throughout the decade that followed, I turned to what I knew, what I could count on.


And you know what? I still do. Ten years into this, I’m not done learning. Not by a long shot. As different challenges come up, as our family’s journey takes different turns, as we explore different paths, I always come back to the books.

I almost hesitate to share a reading list, because what resonates with me may be vastly different for you. Like those of us who know and love someone with autism are so fond of saying if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Same with the books. The books that I’d recommend and that have helped me and my family may be very different ones for you and yours.

But an Eleventh Stack post like this almost demands such, especially with tomorrow being the first day of National Autism Awareness Month. Perhaps you’re starting out on that journey where my family was ten years ago.  Perhaps you have a family member on the autism spectrum, or a close friend’s child has just been diagnosed. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to learn a little more.

Father's Day - Buzz BissingerI think there is something intrinsic that compels us to seek out the stories of others and to share ours. That was the case with me. My favorites have been the memoirs written by the fathers (Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, by Paul Collins; Father’s Day: A Journey Into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son, by Buzz Bissinger, and Not My Boy: A Dad’s Journey with Autism, by Rodney Peete).

The first books I read that made me realize that there were other families having similar experiences as mine (which of course I knew, but there is something validating about seeing such in print) were Making Peace with Autism: One family’s story of struggle, discovery, and unexpected gifts, by Susan Senator and the anthology Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, edited by Kyra Anderson and Vicki Forman.

There are more books, of course - so many more that this post could be twice as long and go on to praise how people with special needs are being incorporated into children’s and teen fiction (maybe that will be part two. Or three). And that’s the point, really.

It goes without saying that I was – and am – able to read most of these books because of the library.

At a time when we thought we were being handed heartbreak, the books we discovered gave us hope.

–Melissa F.



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Welcome to the Music, Film & Audio Department!

Welcome to the Music, Film & Audio Department! We are located on the second floor of the Main Library. Let me show you around.


tour1In the front room the music CDs are organized by genre, including jazz, international, orchestral, new age, soundtracks, etc. This collection includes sound effects. The side wall holds all of the opera CDs. The framed Bakaleinikoff Tablecloth hangs in the back corner.



The back wall holds CD box sets of all genres.
On the other side of the room are audio books on CD: fiction shelved by author and non-fiction by call number, even famous speeches. There is a special section called Family Listening. For more children’s audio books, visit the very large selection downstairs in the Children’s Department.

Here are “Playaways” - MP3 devices that hold one audio book each.






This last wall is our Lecture Series collection on CDs and DVDs, spanning many subject areas. People rave about them!tour 6





In this next room are the DVD collections. Here are the TV Series, and then Foreign Films – filed by language, not by country. Yes, they all have English subtitles.

We have Feature Films, shelved by title, with a few shelves of best-sellers – DVDs of popular titles that just came in to the library. There are a few separate sections: Horror, Anime, Blu-Ray, and a shelf for Video Games.

tour 12The Non-fiction DVDs are organized by subject call number and contain history and science documentaries, music and art instruction, exercise, a travel section, and so much more—music concerts, plays, ballets, religious subjects, etc. etc. etc.

Here are the public computers. We also have a CD player, a record player, and a cassette tape player for public use.tour 2

tour13This is the Music, Film and Audio reference desk where you can get help from librarians. We have some non-circulating collections here including vocal scores and vocal selections from (almost) every musical. There are circulating copies of these as well.

At the Customer Services desk you pick up CDs, DVDs and other AV materials on hold. You can check out all of our circulating material at this desk as well as the Customer Services desk on the first floor.

tour21Here is the audio collection of language learning. We have CDs for English as a Second Language (ESL) for speakers of different languages, and a large selection of foreign language instruction CDs and Playaways that usually come with corresponding booklets. You’ll also find a shelf of dialect CDs for “Acting with an Accent” and DVDs for learning Sign Language.

tour15Next to this is a collection of Pittsburgh documentaries on DVD, and feature films that were made in Pittsburgh.

tour16On this wall is a full set of bound concert programs from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1926 to the present. Under this is the Pittsburgh LP Collection (vinyl records).


In the next two rooms are music scores, books about music, and musical instrument instruction. Why don’t you just take the virtual tour?


*All photos by J. Killebrew


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The Waiting Game

1559568_536003949850058_1098489423_nRecently I picked up The Name of the Star thanks to Abbey’s post, The Ripper. I managed to devour this book in less than 24 hours and then spent the rest of the weekend counting down the minutes until I was back at work and could grab the second book in the Shades of London series, The Madness Underneath. I was hooked with the suspenseful story and relationships. Rory, an American High School student, travels to London to attend boarding school. While there she becomes embroiled in a series of murders that are mimicking the original 1880s murders attributed to Jack the Ripper and she ends up with protection from a special police unit. This book scared the living bajesus out of me. I was reading it in my MIL’s basement while we were visiting and I had to trick my husband into turning on all the lights for me so it wasn’t so dark. (I even sent my five year old up the stairs in front of me. I win parenting.) Then I had scary dreams! No kidding.

When I got back to work I immediately went for the second book in the series and managed to finish it that night. This was a bone-headed move, not because I scared myself again but because The Madness Underneath ends with a gigantic cliff hanger, and by gigantic I really mean soul-crushing. Worst of all the third in the series isn’t scheduled to come out until Septemberish 2014.


ARE YOU KIDDING ME? SEPTEMBER? I am sitting here still waiting for spring and this book is talking about FALL?!?! Not cool. But at least I was lucky enough to have that information; when book two was originally published last year author Maureen Johnson hadn’t put out ANY indication of when the third book might be available. So now all I can do is sit. AND WAIT. Well I have also spent an embarrassing amount of time on Goodreads and other like forums talking to Shades of London fans (who are all at LEAST a decade or more younger than me). Amy-Poehler-as-cool-mom-in-Mean-Girls-GIF

I think this is unfair. I mean I am one of those people who also had to wait for all the Harry Potter books to come out too…these kids today can just come to the library and check out the whole series in one go if they want to. Also … get off my lawn.

Oh well. If anyone wants to form a ‘waiting for publication’ support group you know where to find me.

-Grumpy Nat


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Sweet Dreams

Since becoming a parent I spend what seems like a ridiculous amount of time thinking about sleep (versus actually sleeping). Both my husband and I have had bouts of insomnia throughout our lives, so I guess it’s no surprise that we wound up with night owls for children. Fortunately, we’re now firmly in the toddler and preschool years and the nights of constantly broken sleep are the exception, rather than the norm. But, I still think about sleep.

Most of us have some kind of routine for falling asleep. My husband winds down with whatever book he’s currently reading, but swears by the books of Margaret Truman for helping him get to sleep when he’s having a lot of trouble. My kids require three books* and a song. I like to crawl into bed early and read or binge-watch a TV show (lately something by Anne Bishop has been on my bedside table, and Scandal has been in my DVD player). And if you (or a little person in your life) are having trouble sleeping, there are books like these to help you find your own bedtime routine:

A Woman’s Guide to Sleep Disorders.There are a number of sleep disruptions that are unique to women, like pregnancy or menopause. This book addresses ways for women to sleep well.

Sleep to be Sexy, Smart, and Slim. Although I haven’t read this book yet myself, I’m drawn to the grandiose claims of the title. The book promises to help women get the best sleep of their lives.

The Book of Meditation: Practical Ways to Health and Healing. One of the major causes of insomnia in adults is stress, and meditation is a known stress reliever. Check out this book or one of our many others on the subjet to help clear your mind before going to bed.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger. Help your little one unwind with some calming yoga before bed!

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Whether you agree with this book or not, I’m willing to bet that most parents who have had trouble with getting their kids to sleep have come across Dr. Ferber’s book at some point. For those who prefer an alternative to “Ferberizing,” The No-Cry Sleep Solution is a popular alternative.


*Just kidding, we don’t really read that last book to our kids. But it makes me laugh every time I think of it, especially this reading.


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Mystery Authors Revealed!

I recently attended the Public Library Association  conference held in beautiful downtown Indianapolis. In spite of the fact that I’ve been a gainfully employed professional librarian  for 20 years now, this was my first attendance at a national library conference. I have to say that it was one of the best experiences of my career thus far. I was able to go to sessions about readers’ advisory and collection development, as well as programming, merchandising of books, and ways to increase circulation. If you visit the First Floor, in person or on Facebook, sometime in the next few months you will likely run into my ideas that have been put into practice in some way.

magglassBut by a wide margin, my favorite two sessions focused on mystery books. I am the librarian responsible for purchasing the mystery books for the Main Library and I also am the facilitator for the Red Herring Book Club. I am also a lifelong lover of mysteries, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown and moving on to Agatha Christie by the time I was in my early teens. So, you can see why the opportunity to talk about mystery books and authors, and to meet some of them in person appealed to me immensely.

My Friday morning session was entitled, “Mystery Authors Revealed.” On the panel were 6 mystery/thriller authors, some new and some that have been writing for a while. Each author had exactly 10 minutes to introduce themselves and their book(s). Of course they all talked in some way about their love of libraries and librarians. One even mentioned that a library conference would be a GREAT setting for a mystery, which received a resounding laugh of approval from the audience.

Now, I’d like to present to you the authors I met at that session. You may be familiar with some, but hopefully I can find you at least one new person whose books you’d like to check out. In alphabetical order…

Jeff Abbott – This guy is funny, with a capital F and UNNY! He’s an established author who’s written a few series, as well as some standalone books. He wanted to make sure all of us librarians in the room knew that his very first book, published in the mid-1990s and winner of both the Agatha and Macavity awards, was about a murder in a library. But he was with us to talk about the latest book in the Sam Capra series, Downfall (This series started with Adrenaline, in case you’re like me and prefer to begin at the beginning).  The protagonist is an ex-CIA agent who is about to become a father, when everything goes terribly wrong. Sam needs to use all of his skills to track down the bad guys. He suggested that these books may appeal to reluctant readers, because they contain LOTS of action.

Sophie Hannah – Sophie is British and witty, that dry wit that the Brits tend to have. She likes to create suspense and writes scary thrillers without a lot of gore. She told us that her latest book, The Orphan Choir, was so creepy it scared her as she was writing it! One of the things that excited me most was when Sophie told us that Agatha Christie’s family commissioned her to write a new Hercule Poirot mystery. It will be coming out this September!!!

Frank Lentricchia – This author is also a literature and film studies professor at Duke University. During his few minutes with us, he read a passage from his latest book, The Dog Killer of Utica (to be published in April 2014). This man is a wonderful reader to listen to and a master wordsmith. This series starts with The Accidental Pallbearer.  Eliot Conte is a PI in his mid-50s who has a short fuse, which leads to a checkered past, but his motives and intentions are usually good. These books are really a love story for the down-and-out Utica, NY.

M.L. Longworth – Mary Lou is a Toronto native who resides in France with her husband. She is absolutely charming and I enjoyed hearing her tales of the French countryside. She actually wrote about speaking with us in her blog . Mary Lou is a fellow foodie, so both her talk and her mysteries resonate with me. Her mystery series is set in France and the latest in the series is Death in the Vines.

Laura McHugh – She is the debut author of The Weight of Blood, which is set in Ozarks in southern Missouri. Like many rural places, blood ties are the law above all else. This can lead to some terrifying situations. Laura grew up for a time in that area and always felt like an outsider in her own town. She was very gracious and as a first-time author, very excited to be talking with us.

Peter Swanson – Peter is another debut novel author, but is already an extremely accomplished poet. His first book is The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. This is a dark, suspense-filled book about what happens when the one you never forgot is the one you should stay away from, but can’t. It’s based on a short story/novella written previously, that an editor/agent wouldn’t let him forget about. Peter came across as very sweet, even a little shy, but spoke very passionately about writing and his first novel.

-Melissa M.

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Samuel Hazo Presents: Poetry and Public Speech, April 7th, 6 to 8 pm


Samuel Hazo, founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, is coming to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main to discuss how politics, historical speeches and public discourse coincide with the world of poetry. The author of many books of poetry, fiction, essays and plays, Hazo is also a McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University, where he taught for forty-three years. A National Book Award finalist, he was chosen as the first State Poet of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey in 1993, where he served until 2003.

An accomplished poet, playwright, translator and essayist, Dr. Hazo has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Maurice English Award for poetry for his volume, Just Once: New and Previous Poems.

It is fitting that Dr. Hazo will be delivering his talk on April 7th in the beautiful International Poetry room on the second floor of the library, fitting because he founded  the core collection of work by poets from all over the world which now fills an entire room.

International Poetry Collection

It is a privilege and an honor to have him return in what is something of a homecoming, a homecoming for someone who, in fact, has never truly been away. Come hear Dr. Hazo talk of poetry and public speech, the places where they converge, and those where they are forever apart.

- Don

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