Tag Archives: Bonnie

A Year in Review

And what a year it has been!  While advocacy was a major theme for the Library this year (and that will continue in 2010!), we also managed to have a great big celebration of summer reading, open a new Allegheny branch, and spend more time in the news than ever before.

Of course, each member of the Eleventh Stack team has been sharing their thoughts, ideas and suggestions with you all year long. We thought we’d take this opportunity to bring you highlights from the Library trenches, where we’ve been discovering new books, DVDs, CDs, online resources, or simply learning something new each day.  Come join us anytime!

Kaarin:  Highlights for me this year were new “My Account” features, Reading History and Wish Lists.  I can now keep track of everything I’ve borrowed and everything I want to borrow without having to keep separate lists!  I was thrilled to discover new ways to find good books to read using librarything and goodreads.  And finally, I thoroughly enjoyed two novels I can recommend, The Shack, by William P. Young, and The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Leigh Anne:  Every December a book sneaks up on me, completely undermining my sedate recap of a literary year with its sheer brilliance.  This year’s book is The Hunger Games, which wraps pointed questions about social and political justice in the guise of a well-written dystopian fantasy novel.  The Hunger Games pits Katniss Everdeen against other teenagers from the various districts of Panem in a televised fight to the death that’s akin, plot-wise,  to both Battle Royale and the Stephen King novellas The Long Walk and The Running Man.  Get your hands on a copy, absorb the brilliance, and then get back in line, immediately for the sequel, Catching Fire.  I promise that, at the very least, you’ll have had some second thoughts about the excesses and inequities of American culture.

Other highlights of the year include a new countywide subscription to Mango Languages and Pittsburgh’s return to the ranks of America’s most literate cities.  The best thing that happens at the library all year, though, happens every day:  I get the privilege of helping you with your information needs, always learning something from you in the bargain.  It’s only going to get better and more interesting in 2010, dear readers, so fasten your seatbelts…

MA: The year for me has been exhilarating in the terms of literature.  I’ve stumbled across books that have, as Leigh Anne once said, presented me with book serendipity.  A few titles from the list:

Traveling with Pomegranates– a wonderful mother-daughter memoir detailing their growth and understanding with each other over a course of drastic change in both their lives. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife:  Niffenegger takes you through a world of almost science fiction proportions, but not overtly so.  The book encompasses the beauty and the despair that love brings to the lives of two people.  A true pleasure to read.

Bright Lights, Big Ass:  A hilarious memoir (one of the many!) by Jen Lancaster, ex sorority girl extraordinaire!  Written with a zest that not many authors can pull off, she takes you through her days so honestly that you can’t help but feel charmed by it. 

Wes: This year I was extremely pleased with the success of our newly created Black Holes, Beakers, and Books science book club. The book club had some great discussions about science, and a few of them were joined by the authors of the books we were reading, including Ann Gibbons, Lee Gutkind, and Marvin Minsky. Stay tuned for even more from Black Holes in 2010!

Lisa: 2009 can be easily summed up for me with this one book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s been my go-to cooking guide, impressed many, and has greatly enhanced what’s for dinner!

Bonnie: My favorite reads of 2009:

American Nomads by Richard Grant: Grant is my favorite writer right now.  This gem recounts the history of nomadism in America—beginning with Indians, conquistadors, and then on to truck drivers, mountain men, hobos, cowboys  and bull-riders.  Grant is a nomad himself, and writes about the tension between the “sedentary” and people on the move—read this when you’re in the mood for an adventure.

First Blood by David Morrell: This was a big surprise—I had no idea Rambo was based on a book—and I was totally blown away by it.  Literally!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This teen novel helped to alleviate my blood thirst caused by reading First Blood.  It’s chock-full full of edge-of-your seat, heart-pounding gloriousness.  If you read it, you will want to give me five dollars for suggesting it.  But I will turn it down.

Wishing you the best in 2010.


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Give and we shall receive

I know it’s completely unseasonal for me to talk about feeling thankful when it’s not even November, but I have to get something off my chest:  I am deeply humbled by the people who go through our library’s doors every week NOT to read magazines, buy an iced coffee or to take a nap, but to work.  For free. 

Our faithful volunteers often work behind the scenes—looking for missing books, repairing damaged items, shelving, making displays or booklists, marketing library programs, hosting language clubs and so much more.  Some volunteers are able to give an hour or two every week for 6 months, while other volunteers have given the library decades of their time and talent. 

Many public libraries are understaffed in these difficult times, and volunteers who contribute a couple of hours per week make such a difference in the quality of service a library can offer customers.  While volunteer work cannot take the place of professional library staff, it can free staff  to work on projects that normally get pushed to the sidelines.   

We have one volunteer (who is also a librarian) who leads a book club for older adults off-campus.  Each month, she rides her bike carrying 12 heavy large print books and then discusses the previous month’s title with a dozen seniors who aren’t able to get to the library.  The staff in our department would love to provide this kind of regular outreach, but have too many constraints of day to day work to allow it.  Because of this volunteer’s selfless giving, there are a dozen seniors who have an opportunity to explore books and worlds that they might not have had otherwise.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, please check out this link: http://www.carnegielibrary.org/about/support/volunteer/. Our volunteer coordinator will help you to match your time, location and talents with libraries and library departments that can best use your help. 

And a big “THANK YOU” bear hug to everyone that has given your time and talents to your public library.  We can’t do it without you! 



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Buon giorno!

I decided I would like to be Italian after seeing the movie Moonstruck a number of years ago.  Since then, when the weather turns dark and cold, I blow the dust off my DVD case and subsequently get lost in the love lives of each of the characters, and start to believe in the power of a full moon to draw lovers together.   The film manages to be at turns dramatic and beautiful and hilarious.  My favorite parts:

  • The unforgettable Cher in her Oscar-winning role as Loretta Castorini slaps Nicholas Cage, her fiancé’s brother and tells him to “Snap out of it!” when he declares his love for her.
  • Rose Castorini, played by Olympia Dukakis, tells her father-in-law as he takes his full dinner plate to his bevy of pooches, “Old man! If you give those dogs any more of my food, I’m doing to kick you till you’re dead!”
  • Nicholas Cage gives his histrionic speech in the bottom of his New York City bakery blaming his brother for the loss of his hand while using a meat slicer.  When Cher’s character says that is wasn’t his brother’s fault, Nick replies: “I don’t care! I ain’t no freakin’ monument to justice! I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride! You want me to take my heartache, put it away and forget?”

While I may not actually ever become Italian,  the library affords me the opportunities to get as close as possible:

  • Beginning in January, the First Floor will host a language club, Italian for Beginners, on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, from 6:30-7:30.  No registration required.
  • The library has countless cookbooks devoted to Italian cookery.
  • Mango Languages can be accessed from the library’s website from your home computer.  Mango is an interactive way to learn over 20 languages of the world, including Italian.
  • We have other Italian language learning materials in a variety of formats.
  • The library has hundreds of items in Italian, including books, magazines, music CDs and  feature film DVDs.



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The Quest

Today, I will embark on a road trip to visit seven friends in seven days.  (Doesn’t that sound like the name of a boring memoir? Seven Friends in road3677296594_59af8b8f2eSeven Days: How I Saw Some Buddies and Discovered a Life Worth Living.)  I will pass through 7 states and cover roughly 1,547 miles.  Will I discover myself on this road trip?  Will I get into fist fights with locals at rural drinking establishments?  Will I kill a man, like Thelma and Louise did?  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I find myself anxiously wondering which audio books I should listen to.  Should I listen to the latest bestseller?  No, kind readers, because you have all of them out right now.  Should I listen to a classic mystery?  An epic fantasy adventure? A self-help book about dating, finances, or my immortal soul?  It probably wouldn’t hurt–unless it’s boring and I take a little snooze and crash my car–then it would hurt.

I am very particular about my audio books: the prose can’t be too flowery or my mind wanders.  The narrator has to emphasize just the right words or the message won’t come across.  The plot can’t be too confusing, because I don’t have the luxury of flipping back a few pages to see if it was so and so that did such and such in the parlor.

I have compiled a list of  some of my favorites, along with some suggestions by other audio book aficionados:

I’ll let you know if I had any run-ins with the law when I get back.  Until then, what audio books have you loved?



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get up, stand up

This week I attended the ne plus ultra of librarianship on the local level: the Pennsylvania Library Association Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I got to:

a) Meet, hug and fawn over my favorite author Jennifer Weiner (I asked her to inscribe my book, “To Bonnie, my best friend”)
b) Win an iPod, even though I told the vendors repeatedly that I don’t know how to use the one I have (don’t judge me)
c) Be surrounded by the greatest collection of sensible shoes the world has seen since the 1876 American Library Association Conference in Philadelphia
d) Fuss over the Encore vendors and declare my undying affection for Encore
e) Take photos of important colleagues posing à la America’s Next Top Model on the front steps of the Capitol building

At the conference, I attended sessions on effective organizational communication within libraries, marketing library programs, awesome/useful web tools, creating effective partnerships with other organizations, and so on. One experience especially made an impression, and that was visiting the capitol building. We met with Representative Steve Samuelson, who is a great advocate for libraries in our state. He gave us advice for meeting with elected officials that I would like to pass on to you:

• Get lawmakers on your side. Invite them to the library and share with them the important services your library provides to the community.
• Tell your lawmaker what they are doing right–and wrong.
• Probe them—find out where they stand on the issue of libraries—don’t let them off the hook. This can sometimes be surmised with a handshake: “So we have your support for libraries?” Then send a thank you note thanking them for their support.
• It’s not inappropriate to convey our disappointment about how they have voted. They need to know how their constituents feel and how their actions affect libraries and communities.
• The Pennsylvania Senate voted THREE TIMES to pass a budget that cut library funding by 51%. Because of your letters, in the last three weeks before the budget passed, the cut decreased from 51% to 34% to 21%! Because of your letters, the senators compromised. They listened to YOU.
• Pennsylvania makes $79 million annually in taxes from the sale of books and magazines. If that money were earmarked for public library funding, our beloved libraries wouldn’t be on the chopping block year in and year out when the officials convene annually to pass the state’s budget.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is slated to close several communities’ cherished libraries and lay off many treasured librarians and library staff that change lives every day. Don’t let this happen. Put pressure on our mayor, the mayoral and gubernatorial candidates, as well as our city and state’s elected officials. They decide how your tax dollars are spent.

Don’t let them off the hook. Our libraries are in their hands.



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1,001 Dalmatians-err, holds on Dan Brown’s new novel

At the time of this writing, there are 1,001 holds on Dan Brown’s new book, the Lost Symbol.  The second book with the most holds (592) is Swimsuit, by James Patterson.  Patterson’s book Alex Cross’s Trial comes in third, with 581 holds.

Call me wildly judgemental, but could someone please tell me why people love these books?  Many of our fiction bestsellers, “written” by blockbuster authors who are able to churn out five or more books a year get checked out like crazy, while genuinely great literature sits on the shelves for weeks, months and even years at a time.  So I am giving this blog post a new title:

Books that you should be reading but aren’t because you’re too busy reading Danielle Steel

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant

God’s Middle Finger is one of the finest travelogues I have come across, and I tell you over and over again to read it.  I’m feeling like a nag.  But don’t take my word for it-here is an excerpt from Publishers Weekly:  “He narrates these adventures with unflappable charm and humor, risking his life to the reader’s benefit, shared fear and delight of discovery. Though eventually worn out by his physically and emotionally challenging journey, Grant still manages to produce a clear-eyed, empathetic account of this complex, fascinating place.”

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

The ever hilarious Christopher Moore, author of Bloodsucking Fiends: a Love Story, and You Suck: A Love Story, has done it again, except this time he deals tenderly with the sensitive topic of death.  The main character, beta male Charlie Asher, discovers that he might be Death, and has to collect the souls of people who are dying around him.  Poignant moments and hilarity ensue.  If you haven’t discovered Christopher Moore yet, hold on to your hat.  He is a cult hero.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

Jacobs, who is making a name for himself by subjecting himself to weird life experiments like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover, decides to try to live a full year in accordance with all of the laws in the Bible.  He grows his beard, wears only white,  and in one memorable scene stones someone.  Jacobs is openly agnostic, but open-mindedly interacts with his spiritual advisors and various people he meets along the way, including snake handlers, atheists, Samaritans, Jerry Falwell, and Amish folks.

Gloria by Keith Maillard

This epic literary novel set in the 1950s follows the life of a smart and glamorous young woman from a West Virginia steel town who struggles with the desire to go to graduate school, when her parents desire for her to marry.  The story explores such issues as class, sexuality, social convention, and acceptance.  Also, Maillard is an incredible writer.

I talked to someone last week who was coming to check out the book that her husband reads.  He only reads one book, because he knows that he likes it and he doesn’t want to waste his time reading things that he might not like.  DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE.  There are people who can help you.  We’re called librarians and we love to help people find books that they would like to read–that suit their specific tastes.  You don’t have to read only Michael Connelly books or only the Da Vinci Code over and over again.  And despite the judgemental nature of this post, we will never judge you.




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Our spirituality book club has been reincarnated and born again

At our last meeting, we decided to change the Pathfinders Spirituality Book Club schedule to a series format—we will meet in September, October and November, rather than every other month. We also voted on the titles to read next.  And so, our Fall 2009 schedule is:

September 9: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

An exploration of religion as a cultural phenomenon and its benefits to human life as well as a plea for world religions to engage in more rigorous self-examination.

October 14: Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong

A meticulous, engrossing biography that gives a historical look at this charismatic prophet as well as the history of the West’s hostility towards Islam.

November 11: In the Spirit of Happiness by The Monks of New Skete

Modern day monastics discuss the pathways to happiness in this profound and lively look at spiritual disciplines and devotion.

Just click on the link to reserve your copy. Pathfinders will continue to meet at 6pm in the Directors Conference Room at the Main Library. We hope to see you there!


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Believe the hype

I hope I’m not the one to break the news to you of the memoirist Frank McCourt’s passing on Sunday. McCourt left us with three unforgettable full-length books: Angela’s Ashes, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award; ‘Tis and Teacher Man. It is my belief that these books can only be truly appreciated when read aloud by the author. That’s right—I’m telling you it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and listen to an audio book. Listening to Frank McCourt with his Irish lilt, telling you about his miserable childhood in Ireland is like having your very own Irish grandpa telling you hilarious, heartbreaking stories of the old country.

Here is a snippet from the beginning of Angela’s Ashes:

“The happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests, bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years.”

If you have never had the pleasure of reading Frank McCourt, believe the hype, and try out one of his books in audio format.


Support your library! The Pennsylvania Library Association has designated the week of July 20th PaLA Call-In Week. Please take the time to call the Governor, your Senator, or your Representative and tell them how much your library means to you. Visit the PaLA website or our advocacy page for details.

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To charm a worm

This past Saturday the United Kingdom hosted its 30th anniversary World Worm Charming Championships.  Worm charming is a sport in which competitors use various methods to “charm” worms from their loamy abodes with methods including but not limited to: tap dancing, singing, stomping, and the usage of various contraptions that create vibrations on the 3×3 meter plots of ground.   The competition lasts for only 30 minutes and no water is allowed—it sedates the worms.  This year the winner was a ten year old girl who charmed 567 worms from the ground!  It was a new world record.
Here’s a video about the contest: 

ETA:  At some point after this was posted, the embedding was disabled by request – click here to get an eyeful of worm charming!

Check out these books about charming worms of a different sort:
A Rogue of my Own

To Catch a Thief

The Devil’s Temptation

Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady

Surrender to a Scoundrel

Now go out there and charm some worms!

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Welcome to the ‘Burgh presidents, officials, dignitaries n’at!

Welcome to the ‘Burgh yinz dignitaries n’at! Pittsburgh will soon have the honor of playing host to the world’s most powerful leaders on September 24th and 25th!

According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Pittsburgh was selected because it’s a great example of a region that has reinvented itself. “It’s an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past, but because of foresight and investment is now renewed, giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future,” Gibbs said. “And I think the president believes it’d be a good place to highlight some of that stuff.”

This city has a lot of be proud of: its healthcare industry, libraries and educational institutions, robots and technology, pancakes, as well as green building initiatives. Pittsburgh boasts the largest certified “green” convention center in the world, awarded the Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Pittsburgh is a natural choice. 

Congratulations yinz guys!


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