Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tackle Hunger @ Your Library This Souper Bowl Sunday

Spiffy logo created by WYEP. Click through to see source page.

Spiffy logo created by WYEP. Click through to see source page.

Sundays at Main Library are great days to be there, in my humble opinion, because there’s always something interesting going on. Three weeks out of four you get to Celebrate the Arts with special cinema, music, and other cultural performances. and every now and again there’s an extra special surprise…like this weekend, for example.

This coming Sunday, once again, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main is providing the venue for the WYEP‘s Alternative Souper Bowl, a musical benefit for HEARTH. From 12-3 p.m. you can enjoy a live broadcast with local musical artists, including Sleep Experiments, Townsppl, and Triggers. A donation of non-perishable items–especially thoughtful if you choose from HEARTH’s wish list–is your admission ticket to an afternoon of good music in a great space. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to get home for the game afterwards, even if you’re the one providing all the snacks.

We hope you can join us for an event we are always thrilled to host. Whether you can stay all afternoon or just for a little while, you’ll be a significant part of an event that annually brings the Pittsburgh community together to do good and have fun at the same time.

–Leigh Anne

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When It’s Very Cold Outside

When it’s very cold outside I like to read books about people who are even colder than I am. When I sit by my heater and ponder the insanity of those who go outside on purpose, I feel much warmer by comparison. So let’s consider, if you will, the band of hikers in this book.

Dead Mountain

Looks cheery, doesn’t it?

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is the rousingly weird story of a group of Soviet students who died under very mysterious and very suspicious circumstances in the Ural Mountains in January 1959.

Basically, they went out on their merry way, caught rides on clunky Soviet trucks and buses, sang lots of folk songs, tramped into the wilderness, and… never returned. A search party eventually found their bodies scattered about their wrecked campsite – food was left unprepared, boots and pants were abandoned, and someone was missing a tongue. Ew. Better yet, tests conducted at the time showed that the bodies were surprisingly radioactive – now things are getting interesting!

The story alternates between the hikers in 1959 and the author in the present, so you get a little about their trip and then a little about the author’s investigation. The chapters are pretty short and often feel disjointed, though I suppose you could just call it “suspenseful” and deal. It’s not quite enough to make you throw the book across the room; rather, it gives you plenty of opportunities to stop and get a fresh mug of hot tea.


What’s that? It’s roentgenizdat! Image from an article at; click the picture to read it.

The chapters set in 1959 include a Cold War crash course, with just enough information about the era to help you make sense of things – though as a librarian, I was mildly horrified by the lack of a bibliography. But still, there are some mighty Fun Facts in here. For example, did you know that Soviet students with a hankering for Western music would make their own records out of used x-ray film? They’re called roentgenizdat (“bone records,” more or less) and they are amazing. That one weird fact, now lodged forever in my mind, totally makes up for the short chapters and occasional authorial digressions.

The present-day chapters introduce you to the lone survivor of the group (who turned back early due to illness) and to a fellow who maintains a whole apartment/museum dedicated to the incident – he’s the source of the pictures that appear throughout the book. You also get to see what happened to the formerly swanky university town of Sverdlovsk (like many Russian cities, it’s had a few name changes).

The hikers and a clunky Soviet truck, from the camera found at their campsite. Image from the book's website.

The hikers and a clunky Soviet truck, from the camera found at their campsite. Image from the book’s website,

But what really happened to the hikers? Of course, conspiracy theories abound – weapons test gone awry, crazed animals, serial killers, and (yes, I know) aliens are mentioned, and since the book is set in the Soviet Union there are suggestions of evil government cover-ups. In the end, the author decides to drag Science into it and comes up with a plausible new theory – but since Eleventh Stack is largely spoiler-free you’ll have to check it out and read it yourself (note: it wasn’t aliens; I don’t mind telling you that much).

– Amy, slightly chilled


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Baby, You Can Drive My Car (and listen to my book)

Let me be the umpteenth person to tell you that I’m so over this winter already.

I mean, I am done. 

Pittsburgh’s daily dose of snow-slush-slop atop Arctic Circle temperatures colder than my freezer has made for some interesting – and somewhat frustrating drives to work lately. One can only listen to the same litany of traffic delays and weather cancellations so many times.

What is a ‘Burgh commuter to do?

Put the pedal to the metal and press play on the audio books, baby.

Before we moved to Pittsburgh, I had a job where I drove two hours – each way! – to work.  Public transportation, sadly, wasn’t an option and nobody else was crazy enough to live nearly 80 miles away from the office, as I did.

So, do the math: four hours behind the wheel every day, multiplied by five days, buys you 20 hours of quality audio book time every week.

I did this for three years.  

That’s a lot of audio books.

Fortunately, here in Pittsburgh my commute is much shorter (and my weekly gas and coffee bills much less expensive), but my love for the audio book is just as strong. I find that listening to an audio book is calming and a nice bridge between work and home. There’s a sense of productivity, too; when I’ve read a chapter or two while languishing in yet another daily backup at Camp Horne Road on 79 or on the Vet’s Bridge, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

If you’re new to audio books or if it has been awhile since you’ve given them a try, these suggestions might be helpful:

This week I’m listening to Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, by Melanie Warner, which – holy cow! – is this generation’s version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Here are a few others that I recently listened to and can recommend:

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted - CLP

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show A Classic, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (read by Amy Landon, 11.5 hours). Fans of MTM and those who hold a certain nostalgia for television’s Golden Age of Comedy may enjoy this retrospective, which gives equal time – if not more – to the female writers and the cultural shifts that shaped “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

I'm Looking Through You - CLP

I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (read by the author, 9 hours, 30 minutes). A poignant memoir about identity and becoming one’s true self. The symbolism of growing up in a haunted house on Philadelphia’s Main Line is interwoven with Jennifer’s quest for acceptance of her personal ghosts and discovering herself.

Next to Love - CLP

Next to Love, by Ellen Feldman (read by Abby Craden, 11 hours, 23 minutes). A sweeping historical fiction World War II novel that follows three couples and their families through multiple changes, both in their personal lives and in society.

Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson (read by Scott Brick, 14 hours, 30 minutes).  Set in the midst of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, this is a gripping tale of mystery and intrigue about a little-known part of America’s history.

Want more? On the CLP website, we’ve compiled lists of audio books.

So, while the winter weather may be putting a damper on our abilities to get from here to there, why not make the trip  more pleasant by bringing a book along for the ride?

Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!

~ Melissa F.


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How Does The Song Go?

Are you experienced?

Who are you?

Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

Will you still love me tomorrow?

How deep is your love?

What do you get when you fall in love?

Who wrote the book of love?

Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?

Why do people want to fill the world with silly love songs?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Whatever happened to Fay Wray?

Should I stay or should I go?

Why don’t we do it in the road?

Could you be loved?

Who can it be now?

If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?

Who are the Brain Police?

Don’t you want somebody to love?

Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?

Why do fools fall in love?

What if God were one of us?

How will I know if he really loves me?

How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you believe in magic?

Will the circle be unbroken?

I want to know, have you ever seen the rain, comin’ down on a sunny day?

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Why don’t you love me like you used to do?

Miss Mousie, will you marry me?

Why can’t we be friends?

Are you lonesome tonight?

Why do you build me up, Buttercup baby, just to let me down?

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Are we not men?

How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world so cold?

Do you remember when we used to sing – sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah?

Can you feel the love tonight?

Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?

What’s love got to do with it?

Do your ears hang low?

Who will buy this wonderful morning?

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for?

Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

Hello, I love you; won’t you tell me your name?

Is there life on Mars?

Have you met my good friend Maria?

Can you hear the drums Fernando?

I’ll bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?

How much is that doggy in the window?

What’s new, Pussycat?

Who let the dogs out?

Is that all there is?

We can help you find the answers to all these burning questions at the Music, Film & Audio Department with our massive popular music songbook collection!


P. S. It’s a quiz! Try to guess the artist and song for each of the 55 questions, including the title of the post. I will post the answers separately below. Bonus points if you can guess my age based on the song list that I came up with.


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Re-Reading Ender’s Game Just in Time for Déjà Vu

Be honest. Do you read teen fiction? It’s okay–loads of adults do.

Of course, opinions are like…well, there’s no shortage of opinions on who should or shouldn’t read or write young adult novels and why. At this point most folks have caught on, and are rushing to create lists of YA books you should read for summer. winter, spring, and the end of the world. NPR even had a go.

So from my vantage point at CLP Teen–Main, I understand when adults come looking for a title and share, with a look of I-can’tbelieveI’madmittingthis, that they’re totally hooked (me too, friends). One adult YA addict wrote:

…there’s an undeniable nostalgic lure. Reading YA, unlike consuming other forms of entertainment that are rooted in the past–movies that are remakes or origin stories of long-established comic-book heroes, for example–reminds me of the person I used to be rather than the things I used to be into.


If any of this describes you, you’d be in good company at the Déjà Vu book club! On the third Saturday of each month, we dig in to teen titles that have been in print for years, and opening up worlds for us for just as long. Whether your first reading of these books was with a flashlight long after “lights-out,” or trading pages for a sleep deficit on a work night, these are the books that made a mark on you. Maybe the tragedy of a good bildungsroman (or maybe just John Green) renders the age of the main character immaterial for you. Perhaps you just like a good romp through a glitter-covered version of 1980s L.A. where wishes come true, though not without consequence.

Next Déjà Vu Book Club: the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ender’s Game!



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We’re Playing Your Song

Humans have made music for thousands of years, and yet we still manage to keep coming up with new and pleasing combinations of sounds. That’s a good reason to celebrate, don’t you think?


Click through for tickets and more information!

The Library agrees. On March 7, 2014 our After Hours series continues with a magical mystery tour through centuries of sound, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Mark your calendars, buy your tickets, and swing by Main Library at 7 p.m. sharp for trivia, tasty nibbles, and tunes.

If you’ve been to our previous After Hours programs, you know we have a knack for creative good times, and our latest event is no exception. Your tickets include:

Whether you’re a coloratura soprano or strictly a “sing to the cats when nobody else is around” sort of person, you’ll find something to love at After Hours. Click here to buy your tickets, and click here for more information about the event, our sponsors and partners, and the tax-deductible value of your ticket purchase.

Sing out if you’re coming! And don’t forget to spread the word.

–Leigh Anne


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Change, the Only Constant

“The only thing constant in life is change.” Francois la Rochefoucauld

The Eleventh Stack blog’s last group post of 2013, was about a quote that spoke to you or was meaningful in any way; for me, it was this one.

It sounds so simple yet encompasses a great deal. When I first read it, I felt like a weight had lifted from my shoulders.


Purple coneflower bud (author’s photo)

In the last three and a half years, I’ve had a lot of change in my life. I moved from my home state, settled in a new home, and started a new job. I had to find grocery stores, a hair stylist, and where to have my shoes fixed. Too many changes for someone like me who prefers the calm and soothing waters of routine.

All my life, I have resisted change. As a child, I suffered from anxiety over it and I think it’s long past time I accept what is and go with the flow instead of fighting against the current. It is something I struggle with every day. Change will happen no matter what.

The library has some wonderful resources–search Change Psychology in the subject field of the online catalog–that explore this topic. Here are two that I found to be helpful. Perhaps they can help you or someone you know.


Change Happens: When to Try Harder and When to Stop Trying So  Hard

by Avrum Geurin Weiss


It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change

by Joan Borysenko



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The Extended, the Unrated, and the Re-cut


Nowadays, there are so many different editions of movies being released, or re-released, that it can be hard to know which one to pick. Unfortunately, not all editions are created the same. I’m a firm believer that editing can make or break a movie, and just as an author should not be allowed to edit their own book, sometimes a director also needs an outside pair of eyes to point out blind spots, excesses, or troubles with pacing.

Which is why I say, beware the extended, unrated, or re-cut DVD. In some cases the difference is relatively minor, but in others, a recut version completely destroys an entire movie.

Here are a couple DVDs I would recommend avoiding:

Apocalypse Now (Redux)

Now with nearly 45 extra minutes—as though the original did not have enough apocalypse.

Cinema Paradiso: The New Version

I have not actually experienced this 2002 re-issue of this Academy Award-winning 1988 film, largely due to the fact that numerous people have warned me that it ruins the magic of the original. It is also nearly an hour longer, clocking in at 170 minutes.

Knocked Up (Unrated and Extended)

I remember enjoying this movie when it came out in theaters—I was surprised by its mixture of sweetness and crude dude-humor. Later I accidentally took home the unrated and extended edition to watch on DVD, and it completely ruined the movie for me. Having extended scenes where many of the movie’s comedians improv off each other can be fun to watch in an outtakes reel, but completely ruins the pacing of the movie.

Bad Santa: Badder Santa

Similar to Knocked Up, some of the extended scenes really make the movie drag on and on.  And honestly, the original was rude and crude enough—it did not need to be made any “badder.”

Dawn of the Dead (Extended Director’s Cut)

Die-hard horror fans may not agree with me, but I still think the original U.S. theatrical release is the best version of this zombie classic (filmed at the Monroeville mall, just in case you didn’t know). If you check out the Ultimate Edition though, you will get both the 119-minute International edition and the 126-minute U.S. theatrical version—as well as the bloated 139-minute “extended” cut.

Star Wars trilogy (Special Edition)

Remember when George Lucas made a big to-do about the 1997 re-release of the Star Wars trilogy in a new “Special Edition?” George Lucas spent millions of dollars retouching  A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of the Jedi, adding completely unnecessary details. Personally I prefer to believe that both this “special edition” and the prequels never existed.

Of course, I also realize that sometimes movies can be improved by being re-cut, and I for one will probably never watch the Hobbit movies until they are edited down into one movie, preferably less than three hours long.

How about you? Do you have any favorite (or least favorite) versions of films?



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West Virginia, Almost Heaven

14286_10100261356820705_1697844902_nThis post isn’t about the chemical spill in West Virginia, at least not completely. Of course I am writing this because of what has happed in West Virginia, but this is a love letter of sorts and so it may be a little scattered. You see West Virginia, specifically Kanawha County, is my adopted home. I was born here in Pittsburgh but grew up moving around the mid-west and eastern seaboard and subsequently never really felt at ease in any place I lived. Then I met and married a man from Charleston, West Virginia, and while we have made our home here in Pittsburgh we dream and talk about ‘moving down.’

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River

It is hard for me to adequately explain my feelings about WV without sounding clichéd; sadly my words fail me when I need them most. Maybe these emotions come from the fact that I have always gone for the underdog, or possibly it is simply the Appalachian Mountains which, despite the harshness of the terrain, have inspired loyalty for generations.

Life is old there, Older than the trees

What is happening right now is a shame. There is a long history in WV of King Coal and for every person you find who curses that history another will praise it. WV is an economy based on a few natural resources and for many complex reasons, political and otherwise, opportunities have dwindled in the state. It hasn’t helped that, for much of the rest of America, West Virginia has become a stereotype of the “Row faster, I hear banjo music” variety.

Younger than the Mountains, Blowing like a breeze

We traveled to my mother-in-laws’ the weekend after the spill bringing a U-Haul of 55 gallon drums of water with us. The gesture was appreciated but the truth was generations of making do with little assistance from the outside world have created a people who seem almost impervious to distress. It rained on Saturday night and we woke up to find that many neighbors, friends and family had simply put out plastic totes to collect the rain water. Others were gathering water from nearby unaffected streams and still others offered up well water to those in need. People who were unable to work due to restaurants and businesses shutting down were busy finding other ways to make ends meet. My MIL tried to convince us to take the gallons of nursery water (meant for my sister-in-law and her baby) back with us since we are expecting. She argued that we needed it more. This is the West Virginia I see. This is the West Virginia I love.

Country Roads, Take me home

And yes, like every other place in the world, there are terrible problems and issues and people with backward ideas. I am not saying it is utopia south of Greene County. What I am saying is that it is a place where, when the sun sets, it turns blue mountains pink, dirt paths lead to centuries-old cemeteries, pawpaws grow on sandy creek beds, and there are hidden waterfalls and caves around every bend. It is a place where my daughter goes to bed with dirty feet and wakes up with an open heart.

To the place I belong.



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Things Librarians Look At.


When I started as a clerk at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh- East Liberty, I had no idea that being a librarian was a thing. I just needed a job. I didn’t even care about libraries!

It is totally a thing. We do things like this. And there are lists like this. Even Legos!

Here are some funny yet  informative things librarians look at (during lunch breaks of course.)

Awful Library Books

Sometimes books need to be thrown away. Sometimes a librarian can’t do it. These are the (often unintentional) hilarious results.

Pretty awful, yes?

Pretty awful, yes?

Book Porn

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sexy pictures of all things book-related. Unlike regular porn, this will lead to DIY projects.

Book Riot

Book review websites can be so pretentious. As a voracious reader who will read anything, I love that Book Riot covers everyone from J.K. Rowling to Dave Eggers to James Patterson. Plus, they have a pretty awesome “mission” statement:

We create. We always prefer the book to the movie. We riot as a team. We geek out on books, embarrassingly so. We’re leaders. We practice charity. We miss our subway stop cause the book is that good. We are non-traditional. We believe in family (bookshelves and cats count).


Books That Changed Me

I love these lists. I love the reasons people give for loving their top ten or twenty or thirty. I’m amazed at how many books show up over and over again. Good is good.


I Work At A Public Library

Working with the public can be…challenging. It’s also inspiring, funny and fascinating. 


Librarian Problems

Problems. We got ’em. Books are for nerds!? You cut our funding?!?!


Librarian Shaming

Like dog shaming but for bad librarians. Billed as a “place for those of us in libraryland to come clean” Librarian Shaming has confessions ranging from the awful to the sublime. My own confession? I dropped a Bestseller in the tub. My very first week of work.


Your Librarian Hates You

Your librarian really doesn’t hate you. She hates someone else. Like the guy cutting his toenails at the computer desk.


suzy, who has never cut her toenails in public and tries to be good.


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