Monthly Archives: February 2009

Preservation Fair 2009: Saving Your Family Treasures

Have you ever come across a gorgeous old book that was falling apart and wondered if there was any way to save it?  Or thought about ways to restore all those old photographs you found in the attic?  Tomorrow’s your chance to speak with experts about these topics and more.  Preservation Fair 2009, held at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, will take place on February 28 between 10 and 4.  The event is free with admission to the museum, and you can hear lectures, watch demonstrations, or just talk with some of the vendors.  Some of the highlights of the day will include:

  • A book dunk!  Students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Library and Information Science program will have presentations throughout the day on how to handle and care for wet books. 
  • Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Archives will speak about how to take care of your home movies from 11:30-12:15 in the Museum’s Earth Theater.
  • Also in the Earth Theater, Tom Clareson from PALINET will talk about how to preserve things during disasters from 12:15-1:00.
  • Conservators, preservation experts, and vendors will be there all day for informal discussions on how to take care of your books, movies, photographs, and more.  No appraisals will be given, but feel free to bring in an example from home of something you’re interested in preserving. 
  • CLP will be there too!  Both the Reference Services Department and the Pennsylvania Department will have displays of materials that you can check out on conservation and preservation. 


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Hey, Ladies

12 angry women. First all woman jury in California, Nov. 2, 1911.  Photograph from the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

12 angry women. First all woman jury in California, Nov. 2, 1911. Photograph from the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

 In 1978, women’s history was celebrated over the course of one week.  After getting hip to the events of ladies’ place in history, in 1987 the National Women’s History Project convinced Congress to legally change the celebration to an entire month.  Here at the library, we’re celebrating the accomplishments of women with a three part Women’s History Month Series.  All events take place in Quiet Reading Room

Part I – Raging Grannies                                                                                  
Wednesday, March 4
6:30 to 7:30pm
In the tradition of wise women elders, the Pittsburgh Raging Grannies raise public awareness through song and humor. In this program they share personal and group history along with their homespun peace- and justice-focused tunes.

Thursday, March 12
6:30 to 7:30pm
The ladies of the founding chapter of LUPEC will grace us with an interactive presentation on local women’s history.  May involve a game show and general unruliness.

Part III – Julia Warhola – Andy’s Mother
Thursday, March 26
6:30 to 7:30pm
Andy Warhol’s mother Julia was an artist herself. Come learn about her life, visual artwork and singing from Warhol Museum teaching artists.

– Lisa

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Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack!

Today is the first birthdayof the Eleventh Stack blog!  To celebrate we’re offering a team smorgasbord of wit and wisdom on libraries, blogging, or, well, whatever:

One year ago today, Eleventh Stack sounded its barbaric yawp over the rooftops of Pittsburgh.  Our fans seem to enjoy both poetry and film, so here’s a little gift that combines both:

You can, of course, continue that trip down cinematic memory lane by borrowing the film from us. Thanks for reading along with the blog team, and don’t be shy about making those comments and suggestions…we want to make this the best darn library blog ever, but we need you to help us keep it real and relevant, Pittsburgh.


–Leigh Anne


To celebrate our blog’s birthday we’ve invited our favorite one-ring circus clowns to juggle bananas while singing Happy Birthday in two keys at the same time.
Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with the Pickle Family Circus

Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with the Pickle Family Circus

– Julie


Now might be a good time to listen to Marilyn Monroe breathily singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK

— Tim


I like to pick a birthday ritual and do it for as many of my friends and family as possible for one calendar year.  Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss read aloud was the ritual a few years ago. I would show up at peoples’ places of work or on their phone, etc. I know it’s not this year’s ritual (haven’t figured one out yet, better get on it ) but it’s really appropriate for this occasion. So please check it out and read it to yourself. All of you. It is very trippy and if you don’t enjoy it something is wrong.

– Jude



Happy 38th, Sean

I’m proud to say that the Eleventh Stack blog shares a birthday with one of the greatest actors of our time, Sean Astin.  Not only did he portray the heroic Mikey in the most important movie of the last twenty-five years, The Goonies, he also played the role of the hobbit Sam in the film rendition of the deservedly hyped Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Oh, and let’s not forget his role as the inspirational Rudy.



 According to The Secret Language of Birthdays, those born on February 25 are strong individuals with a belief in universal goals and a higher purpose.  And sharing a birthday with George Harrison, Marcel Pagnol, and Jim Backus isn’t too shabby either.  Happy birthday, Eleventh Stack!


After a year’s worth of blogging, I believe I’ve now learned why, throughout the centuries, the writing, publishing, and reading of personal journals was so popular. By roundabout way of sharing my surmise, I’d like to point you to a poem by one of my favorite poets, Gerald Stern, Pittsburgh born and bred, that celebrates, at least in part, a very specific place: the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where you can get the above mentioned journals, Mr. Stern’s oeuvre, and Eleventh Stack, which, when you think about it, is something of a journal of this very American institution.


Stepping Out of Poetry


What would you give for one of the old yellow streetcars

rocking toward you again through the thick snow?


What would you give for the feeling of joy as you climbed

up the three iron steps and took your place by the cold window?


Oh, what would you give to pick up your stack of books

and walk down the icy path in front of the library?


What would you give for your dream

to be as clear and simple as it was then

in the dark afternoons, at the old scarred tables?


                       Gerald Stern




If today is Eleventh Stack’s birthday, then that makes her a Pisces.  I love Pisceansno wonder we get along so well!



Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack! In the tradition of the unreality of social networking, I’m giving you a virtual (read: imaginary) handmade birthday gift! Although you may be able to use a lovely knitted item – you know, in case your, uh, wires get cold – I think a handmade journal might suit you best. Especially with a retro card.



Happy Birthday, Eleventh Stack.  I wanted to make you a birthday treat. I couldn’t decide if I should make you cupcakes or a birthday cake…so I made you both….enjoy!

First Birthday Cake by hfb.

– Lisa




Eleventh Stack, you may only be one, but you make us laugh, you give us book recommendations, you challenge our ideas about the world, you teach us, and you make us love libraries more than we ever thought possible.


Happy birthday, you cute little one-year old baby library blog!



–Eleventh Stack


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Hard Times Come Again No More

Pittsburgh is proud to be the birthplace of Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864). What makes us especially pleased, though, is that Foster’s music is regularly reinterpreted and performed today. Especially relevant might be his “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a song written in 1854 when Pittsburgh was experiencing an economic slump, high unemployment and a cholera epidemic. Sounds all too familiar, except for the cholera.

Here are just a handful of the many recorded performances of “Hard Times Come Again No More” that we have:

  • For a country-western feel, try fiddler Joe Weed’s version on his Swanee album with vocalists Laurie Lewis and Tim O’Brien.
  • Gospel great Mavis Staples performs a heartfelt rendition on the diverse Beautiful Dreamer compilation of Foster’s songs.
  • I’ve never heard jazz drummer extraordinaire Elvin Jones play such a straight-ahead beat as on Bill Frisell’s instrumental “Hard Times.”
  • Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, and violinist Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Journey includes a musical visit to Pittsburgh with James Taylor singing Foster’s song.
  • You just can’t have enough brass band interpretations of popular songs! Check out the “Hard Times Waltz” on the Chestnut Brass Company’s Foster for Brass disc.
  • Finally, Pittsburgh’s own Dear Friends ensemble, which specializes in 19th century American music, recorded an especially reverent version.
Sing it yourself!

Sing it yourself!

Of course, if you want to perform your own “Hard Times Come Again No More,” grab a music score!

— Tim

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Not Chickens, Poetry!

If you had attended Pittsburgh’s first International Poetry Forum event, you might have worn your fashionable miniskirt, parked your new $27oo Buick, and entered Carnegie Lecture Hall humming “The Sound of Silence” or the theme from Dr. Zhivago. It was October 19, 1966, and you would have been part of a standing-room-only audience about to listen to a reading by Archibald MacLeish. 

The “Poetry Center” was founded in April, 1966, by the trustees of the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, through an initial five year grant to Carnegie Library. Out of the “Poetry Center” was born the International Poetry Forum (IPF), one of a handful of independent poetry reading subscription series in the country. 

In 1986, to celebrate its twentieth year, the International Poetry Forum published A Retrospective, detailing the forum’s improbable beginnings. From page one: “It seemed an unlikely proposition at best. At worst, a folly . . . an organization that would bring poets and writers from all over the world to read their works to Pittsburghers. . . . Even the telephone operator could not believe her ears, and the first listing appeared as The International Poultry Farm!”

Last week’s announcement that the International Poetry Forum will cease after this season breaks many hearts. At his February 11 forum reading, Dr. Samuel Hazo, the 80-year-old founding director, cited loss of support from stock income and foundations, and the forum’s inability to find a replacement director, as twin reasons for its demise.

The forum’s legacy will live in memory, as well as in its published histories and archives. According to an article in the February 13th Post-Gazette, “Literary arts patron Drue Heinz funded an upgrade of the forum’s Web site. Dr. Hazo said the site would continue to be upgraded as it expands its audio archive of poetry readings.” The IPF archives reside at Carlow University, ” . . . a renowned virtual history of American and international poetry. Comprising more than thirty years of tapes of live readings from practicing poets, along with supporting materials, IPF resources are available for scholarly study from their home on the fifth floor of Grace Library.”

IPF brought more than 800 poets, writers, and performers to Pittsburgh. The Retrospective includes a list of every writer who read during IPF’s first twenty years. It’s an amazing who’s who. What poetry fan would not have been thrilled to hear, among others . . . 




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10 Top Most Overrated Novels: List Universe

Stash or Trash?

Stash or Trash?

I’m a big fan of List UniverseThey have lists for everything and anything: the top 10 most common medical myths, the top 10 most interesting Jack the Ripper suspects,  10 notable stops on historic Route 66, and another 10 stops on Route 66.  You get the idea. 

The other day, however, I ran into one a little too close to home: the Top 10 Most Overrated Novels.   As an all-too pale library nerd with nose perpetually inserted in, er, a book, I instinctively cringed.

Be forewarned: for every book on the following list that has you gleefully cackling “Oh, yeah!,” there may be a book or two that is on your list of, well, Top 10 Favorite Novels of All-Time.

Take a deep breath and, in so doing, prepare for karmic joy and/or unabashed sorrow, perhaps in remarkably equal proportions.  Here it is, in ascending order from bad to worst:


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

White Noise & Underworld by Don Delillo

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Emma by Jane Austen



Ok, how’d you do?  My cackle meter registered a 4, but on the blubbering scale I wailed a whopping 5. 

How can this be?  Aren’t there many other overrated books that easily surpass the consummate badness of some of those listed? Has no one ever been forced to read The Last of the Mohicans, The Brothers Karamazov, or Midnight’s Children?   Couples by John Updike (RIP, but, really …), A Hazard of New Fortunes by William Dean Howells or, come on, Finnegans Wake?   Ethan Frome A Separate Peace, A Farewell to ArmsA Stranger in a Strange Land

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, anyone?

Well, obviously, one person’s stash is another person’s trash.  As much as I was sadly appalled at 5 of my fave novels popping up on the most overrated novels list, I’m sure that some of the books I’ve mentioned are probably near and dear to someone else’s heart.   

Even if you haven’t ever been tortured by any of the above (or, like me, find a handful of your favorite novels there), somewhere along the line you must have run across a classic that turned out to be a clunker, a supposed dazzler that turned out to be a mighty dud.

Feel free to share your pain.  Obviously, the rest of us have.

– Don

PS.  I think the finest novel ever written is on the List Universe list.  Care to venture a guess which one it is?  And, strictly for bonus points, two of my favorite novelists who typically appear on overrated classics lists have dodged the bullet here.  Bet you know who they are …


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peace, love, and food, of course

While the wind whipped through Pittsburgh last week, I got to watch and listen to it from a beautiful retreat center out in the middle of nowhere.  It was a lovely few days, filled with meditation, contemplation and prayer.  Now I’m back, rejuvenated and inspired…  to revisit my vegetarian past.  I’m telling you, the food at this place was great!  All vegetarian, healthy and delicious; even the meat-lovers were full and happy.  If I were to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t say the food was the best part, but it was darn close!  And I am ready to pull out the vegetarian cookbooks, my old favorites, the ones I’ve always wanted to try, and some new ones we’ve gotten in that have piqued my interest.

Old favorites:

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at HomeMoosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day: While I love the original Moosewood Cookbook, too, the “fast and easy” aspect of this cookbook by the Moosewood Collective pushes it to the top of my list. Try the Peanut Dip or the Carrot and Parsley Salad.

Vegetarian Cooking for EveryoneVegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison: This is a bible for me; it’s both a cookbook and reference book. For any vegetable or grain I don’t know what to do with, this book has a recipe, my particular favorites are the Tomatillo Salsa and the Couscous with Pine Nuts and Dried Fruit.

I have been wanting to try the following books for a long time:

Yamuna's Table
Yamuna’s Table: Healthful Vegetarian Cuisine Inspired by the Flavors of India, by Yamuna Devi: This cookbook won a James Beard Award in 1992, as did her 1987 Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, and I love Indian food, so it’s time to take this off my must-try list and give it a go. The Broccoli-Spinach Spread sounds particularly intriguing, as does Shredded Beets with Fresh Coconut.

Passionate Vegetarian
Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon: The author’s name alone makes me want to borrow this cookbook, but it also has over 1000 pages of creative recipes and writing.  How often do you find the word “pulchritudinous” in the table of contents of a cookbook?  I could go for the Mockamole or the Fresh Artichoke-Eggplant Lasagna with Lemon Sauce.  Mmmm.

These relatively recent additions to our collection have also caught my eye:

Vegetarian Times Fast and Easy
Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy: Great Food You Can Make in Minutes, by the editors of Vegetarian Times: What I really need is ‘great food you can make in seconds,’ but until that cookbook comes out, this looks like a good one. I really want to try the Clementine Salsa, and apparently it’s possible to make Black-Bottom Pineapple Tofu with Cashew Coconut Rice in 30 minutes.

Rose Elliot’s Sumptuous Suppers: Veggie Food with Style: With several bestsellers and a long backlist of vegetarian cookbooks, Rose Elliot’s latest looks pretty appealing. In fact, I’ll probably just look at the pictures.

Now that my mouth is watering, how about you? Any favorites you’d recommend?


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Economic Stimulus Made Simple

So, I’m no economist, but I gather that this much-talked-about economic stimulus package that Congress passed on Friday, February 13 is kind of a big deal.  Because it’s so important, here are some articles and resources that provide basic information. 

You can read the full text of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009(ARRA) at (where you can also view a slideshow of  Callie Shell-eque photos of President Obama working to win passage of the ARRA).  The House Committee on Appropriations site also provides the bill’s entire text and related information as well as a summarizing press release.  

photo by ShellyS

"Fixing the Money Pipeline" by ShellyS

An important aspect of the ARRA is the government’s promise to be transparent about its use.  In that interest, the not-yet -active site will serve as part of “an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unecessary spending in our government” and allow taxpayers to see how and where the $787 billion are spent.

 News coverage that analyzes the package includes The New York Times, which published a chart, ” The Stimulus Plan: How to Spend $787 Billion,” that breaks down monetary allocations by category.  The Times also approached the plan from an individual perspective with its article “What’s in the Stimulus Bill for You,” as did the Associated Press in “How the Economic Stimulus Plan Could Affect You,” and USA Today in “How Will the $787 Billion Stimulus Package Affect You?”   

To find out how the ARRA will impact Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania, read this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that details the plans representatives submitted for infrastructure improvements in local and state transportation and construction.  It also links to some informative charts that list how PA will spend its $23 billion, a side-by-side comparison of other states’ allotments and more. 

With so much money and our economic livelihood at stake, there are nearly endless sources of information, controversial opinions and uncertainty.  Should you need help navigating them, you know what to do: Ask a librarian.




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Upset at the Oscars? This Film Could Do It!

The Oscars are just around the corner and most of the nominees have already been reviewed, analyzed, examined and pored over in every conceivable way. But be on the lookout for one new upstart, just released last week, that could steal the show in the Short Film Category.
A recently released “biopic” of the Music Department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is already garnering rave reviews. From Haydn to Hip Hop: Music at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Directed by David M. King, © 2009, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is sweeping the YouTube (and library) nation. Although not released in time for Sundance, the clever pacing, witty humor and cast of characters give this compelling film a good chance at a win.

First-time director David King is a natural storyteller. In just over nine minutes he manages to convey the entire story of two souls who turn to the library and discover a world of wonders. Wide-eyed Bonnie seems to marvel at every new discovery while sensible Wes already “had the scoop” on what libraries offer. Interspersing live musicians with the collection, King manages to both point out the connection that the library can make to the real world of music and musicians, but also the variety of resources this library offers.

This reviewer’s favorites include the “barcoded” opera singer and Tim the “whiz kid” librarian/drummer. Personalized information help is not lost, it seems to say, and don’t discount that librarian vs. the Internet!

In these days of economic troubles, it is a real service to remind the public of all the wonderful things made possible with “just” a library card. Would that we could encourage all people to get a card, to use it wisely, and to support an institution that really lives up to the idea of a social contract. Where else can you try out opera, rap, folk and jazz—as well as read up on the history of the blues? Or take up a new instrument? Or find the perfect song and arrangement for your special occasion?

This video reminds us of what libraries are all about—now go get your card today!

Rating: ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪



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Now that’s comedy!*

The Film & Audio Department contains a wonderful selection of stand up comedy on both DVD and book on CD. And conveniently enough, they share the same basic call number with the stand up comedy books: PN 1969.

We’ve got live people!

Rough Around the Edges – Audio and video clips from Dane Cook’s “Rough around the edges” tour from Madison Square Garden.

We’ve got dead people!

George’s Best Stuff – A compilation of some of George Carlin’s classic stand-up routines.

We’ve got new stuff!

Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show – Hit the road with Vince Vaughn and his friends as they take on America’s heartland with the wildest comedy tour of all time.

We’ve got old stuff!

Bill Cosby, Himself – Bill Cosby’s 1982 live concert filmed in Canada with material ranging from the trials of marriage and parenthood, to the antics of the very young, to an encounter at a dentist’s office.

We’ve got raunchy stuff!

Eddie Murphy: RawEddie Murphy entertains with celebrity impersonations and his observations on ’80s love, sex, marriage, his remembrance of Mom’s hamburgers, and more.

We’ve got less raunchy stuff!

Thou Shalt Laugh – Seven Christian stand-up comedians perform routines with family-friendly jokes and stories about the trials and tribulations of daily life.

Photo by Carlos Varela, via Flickr creative commons license!

“Two public librarians and a museum archivist walk into a major university's academic services building….”

If that’s not enough for you, just look up stand up comedy in the catalog to find hundreds of other choices. And remember to take care of your library materials and return them on time, or we’ll get out the Sledge-O-Matic.

– Amy

* Slappy Squirrel, Animaniacs

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