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Welcome Class of 2016!

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Dear incoming college students:

Hey there –how’s it going? We’re really glad you’re here. We know you’re super busy, what with the moving, unpacking, and starting a whole new chapter of your life thing, but we thought we’d write a quick note welcoming you to the neighborhood and inviting you to come over and check us out (literally and figuratively).  We met some of you at the Pitt new student orientation the other night, so we can already tell you’re just the kind of people we want to hang out with:  fun, smart, classy, and about ten different kinds of literate.

Here’s a few things you might not know about us, and some ways you can get to know us better, online and offline:

  1. Library cards are free!  The carving over the door says “Free to the People,” and that means everybody in Allegheny County, including you.  Getting a card  is a snap, with the right ID and info, You can even start your application online, though we will need you to stop by after that and do a few more things before you can pick up your physical card.
  2. Your library card has special powers.  Think of it as an Easter egg in the game of life: once you have a card, you’ll be able to check out items, search databases, download digital items to your Kindle/Nook/other device, get book recommendations, learn languages, and explore tons of other options.  Did we mention the “for free” part?
  3. We will hide you from your annoying roommate.  If you really need to get some studying done, and you want to get off-campus for a little while, we’re a short walk down Forbes.  Make your way to the second floor and indulge in one of our quiet study areas.  We’ve got wireless. We’ve got long tables where you can spread out undisturbed.  We have comfy chairs. Heaven.
  4. There’s an app for us. Got a smartphone?  Download our free app to have library functions–including catalog searches, account checks, and social media features–at your fingertips 24/7.
  5. We know how to have fun on the weekend. The library’s fun all the time, of course, but we pack our Saturdays and Sundays with free special events like world music concerts, poetry readings, unusual films, and other interesting things as we dream them up. Perfect for dates or just hanging out with friends in air-conditioned comfort.
  6. Coffee:  we have it.  Do you consider caffeine a vitamin? No problem.  The library’s Crazy Mocha coffee shop serves tasty food and beverages from local sources, so you never have to choose between your library books and your latte.
  7. Community service options abound.  Maybe you have to earn a certain number of volunteer hours for a class or service club you belong to.  We can work with you to set up an opportunity that will make both you and us very happy. Visit the library’s volunteer page to learn more and fill out an online application.
  8. Books you don’t have to read for class. Whenever you need a break from the rigors of Advanced Calculus or Extreme Spreadsheets, we’ll be happy to hook you up with reading material that will give your brain a break.  From world fiction to sci-fi, mystery, and romance, we’ve got a little something for everybody. And if we don’t have it on hand, we can usually get it for you in less than a week from anywhere else in the county.
  9. An extra shot of academic support, minus the guilt. Because it’s not all fun and games, you’re eventually going to need journal articles, books and other materials to get those art history, literature, and science research papers written.  To level up from smart to amazing, come visit us after you’re done at your school library.  We’ve got journal databases, research guides, and a virtual library collection you can use long after the physical doors have closed. You can even get a jump on internships, local job searches, and standardized tests (it’s never too early to think about this stuff) via our Job and Career Center. If you want to be excellent (and who doesn’t?), make us part of your game plan for world domination.
  10. Gandalf, Captain America, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer work here. Everybody on staff is a superhero in disguise, just waiting to solve your problems. Think of us as the kindly wise folk who show up when you have no idea what to do next; we can point you in the right direction either in person, over the phone, or via a variety of virtual services like e-mail, chat, and text. The only special power we don’t have is mind-reading (that’s not part of the official library school curriculum yet), so we still need you to let us know how we can help. Rest assured, though, that once we know, we’ll do everything in our power to get you the materials and information you need.

That’s a lot of data to process, and even though it’s just the tip of the iceberg, library-wise, we’re pretty sure you have things to do this weekend, so we’ll sign off for now. Stop by and see us soon, though! We hope your time in Pittsburgh is lovely and amazing, and that by the time you graduate, we’ll be good friends. Or, at least, the people you smile and wave to when you run into us between classes.


–Leigh Anne (but you can call her Buffy)

PS:  Make sure you get out of Oakland once in a while and see our other locations, too.  Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are unique, and every single one of them is worth a trip. Plus, you’ll have someplace to take your folks when they come to visit.

PPS:  Please don’t lend your fabulous, free library card to that annoying roommate!  Or to anybody else, really.  Pretend it’s a credit card, because, really, it’s the same principle: you’re responsible for whatever goes out on the card, and we’d hate for you to start your brand new collegiate life with bad credit from library debt.


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Who doesn’t love free movies?

If our bazillion movies on DVDs and VHS tapes aren’t enough for you, why not stop by and watch a movie here at the Main library? You can meet some new people, hang out in our air conditioning, and impress your friends with your newfound cinematic knowledge. Just pick the series that suits you best!

  • International Cinema Sunday
    First Sunday of each month at 2 PM
    Highlighting films from around the world! Watch out, there will be subtitles.
  • Double Dose
    Second Saturday of each month at 1 PM
    Featuring a classic and a current movie in a different genre each month. Come to one or both!
  • Real to Reel Documentary Film Series
    Third Thursday of each month at 7 PM
    Need a reality check? Come see why true stories are as entertaining as fiction.

If you (heaven forbid) miss a film that you really really wanted to see, just look it up in the catalog. All of these movies go into our regular collections after the screenings.


All films are shown in the Center for Museum Education – Classroom A.

  • From the front entrance: Walk straight through the First Floor, down the rear stairs, and through the glass doors. Classroom A is on the right.
  • From the rear (portal) entrance: Walk straight past the museum security office (on the left) and through the glass doors. Classroom A is on the left.

If you get lost, just ask one of the guards or employees!


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I heart free things

Like most people, I appreciate free things when I can get them.  (It’s one of the things I love about the library!)  There are lots of places I turn to regularly for free things, from images to sewing patterns to audio books.  In the spirit of free stuff for everyone, in my next few posts I’ll tell you all about those resources.  Today…copyright-free things!

Copyright law is long and complicated, so much so that I can’t get too in-depth about it in a blog post.  Suffice it to say that for the most part, when we copy a few pages from a book we really liked, or use an image that we found online in a presentation, we are probably falling within the realm of fair use, which allows us to use copyrighted materials for free, so long as they are for personal or educational purposes.  If we decide to publish that presentation though, or even just use an image in a blog posting, we need to tread a little more carefully, because once you start publishing copyrighted things (images, or sounds, or videos, or text), it’s a whole different ballgame.  To make things a little simpler, all of the sources below either have no copyright, or have very liberal use policies.  Enjoy.

  • The Open Photo Project: This is an online community that makes images available to the public.  All images on the site fall under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, which lets you not only use, but also alter the images or build upon them, so long as you credit the source and license the new creation under the same terms.  Images on the site encompass a variety of categories, from animals to technology. 
  • Opsound: This is similar to the Open Photo Project, but for music and sounds.  Recordings on the site also use the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, so they can be used, dubbed, re-mixed and sampled to your heart’s content.
  • The Prelinger Archives: This is an archival collection of “ephemeral” films (things like stock footage, ads, and educational or corporate films), that has fortunately digitized a great deal of the collection.  Visitors to the site are “warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free.”  There are some great films in the collection, and those of you who appreciate “educational” movies about teenage popularity or 50’s-era anti-Communism cartoons (and who doesn’t?) will find this archive especially entertaining. 

 And this is just a sampling of resources!  You might also look at the Free Use Photos Group on flickr, Public Domain Music, or The Public Domain Movie Database to find more copyright-free images, music, or movies. 


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