Tag Archives: library advocacy

Most Likely To…

As an institution serving a wide range of people, neighborhoods, and interests, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is lucky to have the support of a diverse group of community members and organizations alike. Some of these supporters are nominated by library staff (or other advocates!) to receive our annual Community Advocate Award. We wish we could give each and every nominee an award, but because there can only be one, we decided to use this post to give some honorary superlative awards in order to highlight contributions that have been made to CLP in the last year. If you want to wish these advocates well or see who was selected as the Advocate of the Year, you’re welcome to attend the Library’s Annual Public Meeting at CLP-Squirrel Hill on March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

Advocate of the Year Nominees:

Name: Rebecca Altes
Honorary Award: Library BFF
How they’ve contributed: A long-time member of the Friends of CLP-Lawrenceville, this Vice President of the Friends Council and member of the External Relations Committee of the Board of Trustees can always be counted on to work tirelessly to ensure library access for all.

Andrea Coleman-Betts is a fixture at CLP-Hazelwood.

Andrea Coleman-Betts is a fixture at CLP-Hazelwood.

Name: Andrea Coleman-Betts
Honorary Award: World’s Greatest Grandma
How they’ve contributed: When Andrea Coleman-Betts saw a need for a grandparents support group, she didn’t sit around and wait, she started one at CLP-Hazelwood. Andrea’s nominator put it best: “When CLP-Hazelwood needs community support, we reach out to Andrea; when Andrea needs resources, she finds them at CLP-Hazelwood”

Name: Jennifer Duffy
Honorary Award: Library Super Mom
How they’ve contributed: Jennifer is an online advocate, a supporter of CLP, and a cheerleader for other parents who want to make sure their children utilize the library’s resources to the fullest extent possible.

Name: David Hills
Honorary Award: Shelving Machine
How they’ve contributed: David volunteers twice-per-week at CLP-Squirrel Hill and makes such an impact that he’s been described more than once as a “shelving machine.” His attention to detail and dedication to the Library has made him an invaluable part of the team.

Name: Michael Janakis
Honorary Award: Most Likely to Know About Advocacy Options
How they’ve contributed: An active member of the Library Outreach and Community Advocacy Leaders (LOCAL) team, Michael is always ready to volunteer for an outreach event or to tell his teammates about advocacy initiatives through the American Library Association or the Pennsylvania Library Association. He’s also a devotee of CLP-Hill District! His nominator described him as “one of the most passionate library advocates I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting!”

Name: Julia Jordan
Honorary Award: Children’s Reading Advocate
How they’ve contributed: Julia is a power volunteer who helps out at CLP and the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Julia’s been known to get more than 100 books prepped and ready for the shelves in one afternoon of volunteering at the Children’s Department at CLP-Main.

Name: John B. McNulty
Honorary Award: Biggest History Buff
How they’ve contributed: As the president of the West End History Club and a member of the Friends of CLP-West End, John recognizes community in the library. He believes in the importance of libraries and through his tireless advocacy, he has helped to expand the scope of CLP-West End’s renovation so that it will remain an anchor in the West Pittsburgh community for years to come.

Emily MacIntyre poses with a homemade bobblehead at CLP-Carrick

Emily MacIntyre poses with a homemade bobblehead at CLP-Carrick.

Name: Emily MacIntyre
Honorary Award: Most Likely to DIY
How they’ve contributed: Emily is an invaluable presence within teen programming ant CLP-Carrick. A talented and creative person, Emily has helped with everything from redesigning the teen space, co-directing a teen movie project, leading designing work on the annual haunted house, teaching knitting to an inter-generational audience, and more!

Name: Amosizinna Scott
Honorary Award: Homewood Hero
How they’ve contributed: Amosizinna has been an outspoken supporter of the Library, is an active in the community, and constantly draws attention to the Library in community meetings. Her second honorary award might be “Most Likely to bring Cake,”  because we all look forward to the treats she contributes to events.

Name: Michael Smilaek
Honorary Award: Most Likely to Support Pittsburgh Veterans
How they’ve contributed: Mike’s taken his extensive career in technology and funneled his skills into providing outreach at Veterans Place alongside CLP librarians. He’s become a necessary piece of the puzzle of providing needed skills to local homeless veterans, empowering them to move forward.

You know how actors always claim it’s an honor just to be nominated? Truly, it’s an honor that we have so many people to nominate. Thanks to these Advocate of the Year nominees and everyone else who adds their voice to the chorus of Library supporters in Pittsburgh.



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Are You the Library’s Friend?

Did you know that the library has Friends? No, I’m not talking about the kind you find on Facebook. (But yes, we have those too!) I’m talking about a group of library users who support the library, its collections and services through fundraising and advocacy activities.

Each branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (and most likely your local library too, wherever you might be) has a Friends group. Depending on which neighborhood library you visit, this group might be very active or it may have only a few loyal members.  It might be in the process of revitalization, or, as in the case of the Main Library in Oakland, trying to get started almost from scratch.

The Friends of the Main Library in Oakland is seeking input from those who live and work in the Oakland area, those who use the Main Library as their branch, and anyone interested in supporting this grand old building and the services it provides to library customers.  If that describes you and you have a minute to spare, please click on this link and fill out the Friends of the Main Library Interest Survey.   I promise you that it’s quick and painless.  We really need your input and guidance to make this burgeoning group a success.  We, quite literally, can’t do it without you.

Do you value your library, want to make a difference that impacts your whole community, and have even a few hours to spare? I implore you to seek out your local library’s Friends group and join. I think you’ll be surprised at what you can contribute, what you’ll learn, and how enjoyable it will be.

-Melissa M.

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Pittsburgh’s Ultimate “Reality Show” Seeks Contestants

No, the Eleventh Stack blog hasn’t been purchased by a major network — it’s a metaphor!  Pittsburgh’s ultimate “reality show” — a/k/a the actual future of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — can’t evolve without more input from y-o-u.

In May, the library started a community conversation process that garnered real ideas from actual Pittsburghers about how to create a sustainable library future.  You can read summaries of the four May meetings below — please note that these files open as .PDFs:

May 15th — morning workshop

May 15th — afternoon workshop

May 16th — afternoon workshop

May 17th — evening workshop

Pressed for time? Take a peek at the cumulative summary.  Many people chose to provide feedback online, too, so we’ve summarized that input for you as well.

This is where you come in:  the second round of Community Conversations begins on July 17th.  Consider this an “open casting call” for Pittsburghers of all ages, especially if you weren’t able to participate in May (click here for a video summary of what you missed).

All fired up and ready to play?  The July Community Conversations will take place as follows:

Saturday July 17th
10 a.m. – noon
Stephen Foster Community Center — Lawrenceville
286 Main Street, 15203

Saturday July 17th
2-4 p.m.
Warrington Recreation Center — Beltzhoover/Allentown
720 Warrington Avenue, 15210

Sunday July 18th
2-4 p.m.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — Brookline
708 Brookline Boulevard, 15226

Monday July 19th
7-9 p.m.
Union Project — East Liberty
801 North Negley Avenue, 15206

Each session will follow the same format and cover the same territory, so you need only participate in one (repeat attendance does, however, earn you hardcore library supporter props, and library worker love).  Round two consists of:

  • a briefing on the themes developed in Part One
  • a presentation of ideas for the future
  • an interactive discussion of those ideas

It’s the “interactive” part that’s key to the success of the “show;” we need to know

  • which ideas and themes resonate most strongly with you, the library user
  • which ideas are better than others
  • why you prefer the ideas you do, and
  •  if you have any ideas that somehow didn’t come up in Part One

Other things you need to know as a “contestant:”

  • You don’t need to pre-register!  Just show up.  Bring friends.
  • Light refreshments will be served.
  • Children are definitely welcome!
  • Discussion guides for round two will be available here by July 10th

Still have questions?  Maggie McFalls, the library’s Community Engagement Coordinator, will be happy to answer them.  You can e-mail her at feedback@carnegielibrary.org or call 412-622-8877.

Obviously, the future of one of the best public library systems in the known universe (I’m a touch biased) is far more important than anything currently on television.  After all, if we don’t work together to find a sustainable solution, the consequences are more serious than getting voted off an island.  Without access to a good library system, the “biggest losers” are the American dream, the democratic process, and the well-informed citizenry upon which our society is built.

Don’t let it happen on your watch!  Join the conversation, and make your voice heard.

–Leigh Anne

who thinks “Big Bucks, No Whammies” would make a fabulous advocacy slogan, if it weren’t already taken.

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Love Alone

State budget season is here again. Pennsylvania’s June legislative budget wrangle can be counted on like Pittsburgh’s June weather, which brings the highest average rainfall of the year (and many wet basements).

Library of Congress photo

Please reach out to Governor Rendell and your state senator and representative. Remind them that your Library is necessary to the health of your community, and that library funding was cut in 2009. What is needed is to restore funding to guarantee access—not more cuts.

If you’re reading this, you are an important link in the chain that connects individuals through community libraries. Another important link easily connects you to Pennsylvania Library Association’s Legislative Action Center. Click the link for a Web page that allows you to select email recipients according to your zip code, then edit provided text or write your own advocacy letter. After another click or two, your voice will join mine and other citizen advocates.

Please take a few minutes to write or call Governor Rendell and your other elected officials.

Thank you for turning your love for your Library into action.


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We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog Post…

…for a word about library advocacy and planning for the future.

I’m sure many of you will remember the events of last fall. If not, let me remind you. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was facing severe budget cuts and issues of funding sustainability. At that time, the Library Board proposed closing four of the library branches, laying off library staff, and implementing other cost cutting measures.

Even if you don’t remember the why, you probably do remember the backlash that resulted from this announcement. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was finally a fixture in the daily local news media, but not for good reasons. Not for the excellent service that we provide to our customers on a daily basis. Not for the innovative programming offered to the residents of our communities. And not for the high quality materials and computer databases that we provide free of charge.

Well, here is another chance to be involved in the decision-making process. The library system still needs to change. We still don’t have a dedicated, reliable stream of revenue to keep the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system in place as it stands now. But this time, you will have the opportunity to speak about the choices you would like to see the library make.

The library will be holding a series of Community Conversation meetings this year. This week is the beginning of the process. The spring meetings will include information about what happened last year and why, what’s been done so far this year, and where the library needs to go. The spring meetings are also a time for you to tell the library administration and board members what you think is important for the library to keep as part of its services. If you are interested at all about the future of libraries in the City of Pittsburgh, please plan to attend one of the following meetings. You may attend any or all of the workshops. Pre-registration is not required.

Saturday, May 15, 10 a.m. – Noon
Serbian Club
2524 Sarah Street, 15203

Saturday, May 15, 2 – 4 p.m.
Sheraden Senior Center
720 Sherwood Ave, 15204

Sunday, May 16, 2 – 4 p.m.
1230 Federal Street, 15212

Monday, May 17, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
419 S. Dithridge Street, 15213

Please come and speak your mind. Let us know how you see the future of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Change is coming. If you choose not to be involved in the planning process, you miss the opportunity to make your voice heard. It’s kind of like voting.  The people who choose to participate are more likely to get the kinds of results they want.


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SOLD! To the Highest Bidder . . .

roulette wheelCarnegie Library of Pittsburgh announces that as of today, Thursday, April 1, 2010, the Library’s name has been changed to Three Rivers at the Point Casino Carnegie Library. The Library is pleased to partner with Three Rivers at the Point Casino and will continue to provide the same great services you have come to know, love, and expect. 

The decision to change the Library’s name is based on many factors, but the most important is money. The Library needs more money to operate at current service levels. Three Rivers at the Point Casino will provide revenue in exchange for a few small concessions, the first being a name change. Selling naming rights is commonplace. Everybody’s doing it, so why shouldn’t we? Pittsburgh has PNC Park, Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center, and the First Niagara Pavilion, which used to be the Post Gazette Pavilion and before that Coca-Cola Starlake Amphitheatre. People are even selling naming rights to themselves. Remember the woman who sold her forehead for $10,000?  

Another new Library practice, inspired our partnership with the Casino, is the Book Hold Roulette. When you add your name to the waiting list for a book, you’ll never know when you’re going to get it. Each morning, Library staff will spin the wheel and luck will determine who gets the book!  Makes the book hold process a lot more exciting, doesn’t it?

Also beginning today, when you sign on to use the Library’s computers, slot machine you’ll pull a slot machine handle on the side of the computer to enter your  barcode number, and if you get 3 cherries, you’ll be allowed to use the computer!  If not, you’ll have to keep trying until you come up with a winning combination.

Now when you find the book you are looking for on our shelves, as your reward you’ll hear the tinkling sound of change falling into a slot machine tray. You won! You found the book! Congratulations!

I hope you realized by now that today is April Fool’s Day, and this scenario is fiction, not fact.  But, dear reader, potentially reprehensible circumstances could become real if the Library does not find sources of consistent, sustainable revenue. The state budget promises once again to reduce Library funding levels. Financial support from the RAD is always tied to income generated by the extra 1% sales tax in Allegheny County, and therefore cannot be guaranteed to increase or even remain the same from year to year. The Library needs your assistance. Please visit CLP’s web page to find out how you can help

Happy April Fool’s Day!



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Love the Library?

If you haven’t already heard, the Governor’s proposed budget for 2010-2011 includes another reduction to library funding, so the “Pittsburgh Protect Your Library” campaign is still entirely relevant. Writing to your legislators is essential; they need to hear that the library matters to you and why. 

If you’d like to take the next step and really get involved in your Main Library, this is your opportunity. Tomorrow evening is the initial meeting of the Friends of the Main Library. We will be talking about what you, an individual in the community, can do to work together to help the Library. So if you love the Main Library in Oakland, you can join other like-minded folks to see how a strong Library Friends group can make a difference.

Wondering what the group is going to do? Well, it’s up to you! Libraries all over the country have Friends organizations that work in a variety of creative ways to support their local libraries. To learn more about Friends groups and what they do, visit the Friends of Libraries, U.S.A. website.

You may be wondering, “Doesn’t the Library already have a Friends organization?” Good question. Several of our branches have individual Friends groups, and the Library system as a whole had one that hasn’t been active in a few years.  If you’re interested in getting involved in your neighborhood location’s Friends, check with them to see when the next meeting is. If you used to be a member of the overall Friends group, we would love to have you back!

When:  Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 6:00 PM
Where:  Director’s Conference Room, First Floor
                 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main
                 4400 Forbes Ave.
Contact:  412-622-3151 or newandfeatured@carnegielibrary.org

We hope to see you there!!


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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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The library is more important than you.

photo by flickr user jennandjon

photo by flickr user jennandjon

The library is more important than you. The library is more important than its librarians. The library is more important than the materials on its shelves, screens, and speakers. The library is more important than the buildings that house those materials. The library is more important than its director. The library is more important than the newspaper, the TV and radio stations, and all of their reporters. The library is more important than the mayor, city council, congresspersons, the governor, and every candidate for those offices. The library is more important than the state budget and the rest of its funding sources. The library is more important than Andrew Carnegie.

The library is more important, because its potential for change and growth extends beyond you, to your family, your neighbors, and your community.  The library is not just a symbol or a luxury. It is a cornerstone for an informed society to build its future. Anyone can use the library’s resources to become the next librarian, director, mayor, reporter, congressperson, governor, anything. The library is open to anyone to educate herself and her children without agenda or bias, to entertain himself with the media of his choice, to find employment, to research and read and listen and write and watch.

In my cover letter to apply for this job, I wrote, “Libraries, as a free source of unrestricted public education, are a vital part of our communities.”  Now that I work here, I know that to be true. It says right above the door: Free to the People. The library is not more important than the people. Who are the People?  That’s you.

A librarian I work with said, “Good questions are more important than answers.” A good question has the ability to stir in us a force as powerful as hunger. So ask, Pittsburgh. Make demands.  Tell the director.  Tell the papers.  Tell the mayor.  Tell the city, county and state representatives how you feel about branches closing in your neighborhood and your neighbors’ neighborhoods, what you think about library funding, how you feel about losing library workers to assist you, access to information, and hours of operation in which to access it.

And then ask yourself.  Beyond just fighting to maintain the status quo, what do you want from the library?  What does the best library you can imagine look like?

Are buildings open 8 am to 10 pm?  Do shelves stock the newest, most popular and obscure titles?  Do computers whirr and flash with the most up-to-date information, just waiting for you to hit enter?

Do Children’s Departments abound with storytimes and creative play?  Do Teen spaces overflow with engaged, excited young people?  Do event calendars list informative, cultural and educational, thought-provoking programs for everyone?

Do reference departments include the most useful resources to help you accomplish your goals?  Do desks staff energetic employees, motivated and enabled to connect you with what you seek?  Do employees have the means to pursue the latest technologies and methods to assist your search?  Do you come here to find employment, relax, and study?  Is this the place you visit to feel safe, informed, and inspired?

Do patrons feel ownership of this organization?  Are they vocal? Do they contribute their ideas and resources to supporting it?  Do they encourage their government to endorse the institution they value so much?

Is your ideal library a humming center in a vibrant community of empowered, engaged, autonomous citizens?  What has to happen for all of this to come true?  What is your part?

The library is more important than this crisis.  The library is as important as you make it.  All of this is possible.  All of this is yours for the asking.



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Notes From an Intern

Today’s guest post is from Tanya, one of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Minority Interns for 2009. The CLP Minority Summer Intern program is a grant-funded internship program–courtesy of the Heinz Endowments designed to encourage minority participation in the field of library/information science. The internship offers students of varying backgrounds the opportunity to learn about and experience the internal workings of a dynamic library. The internship was directed toward students who are enrolled either in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program.

So what’s a job at the library like?  Maybe you know the library from the few simple clicks it takes you to request the books and DVDs online that neatly end up on a shelf with your name on them that day.  Or perhaps you know the library from the attractive and abundant displays of bestsellers and online booklists created by a team of professional librarians.  Behind the scenes, myriad decisions are made daily just to keep the library humming at a pace that includes hundreds of new library card sign-ups and thousands of items moved around the system every month. 

I have never been witness to more individuals caring about the progress and development of the whole “library family” than during my internship.  Puzzled over a question about electronic resources?  A colleague will be by your side in no time.  Unsure about where to find railroad statistics from 1876?  A reference librarian who has worked with older periodicals will know.  This patient and caring attitude extends beyond customer service into the dealings between colleagues behind the scenes.

While at the Carrick branch, I faced questions like “How do I set up my DTV converter?” and “Can you help me find tax forms?”  I managed to answer both of these to the patrons’ liking.  While in Oakland I made my first booklist and book displays, and selected new titles for the upcoming year from small press catalogs.  My greatest joy, however, was teaching a patron how to request his own materials online.  This made my job worthwhile—the act of teaching people to help themselves is incredibly rewarding.

I met many people during my stay at the library and had many bits of essential information passed on to me.  The statement that stuck with me the most was that of a long-time manager telling me, “The library is the last great social contract.  You come in, you give us your address and phone number, and we let you leave with hundreds of dollars of materials, no questions asked.”  But the truth of the matter is that a lot of time and diligence goes into replacing, repairing and paying for lost, stolen, or damaged items.  What does it say about us—the citizenry—when we accept educational budget cuts in the name of something more important?  Or about the individual who returns an item tattered and dog-eared? 

If you are curious as to where the future of our country lies, morally and as a republic, I suggest taking a look at your local library and its future.  How important is your library to you, and what will you gain or lose should it no longer be “free to the people”?

I can’t be grateful enough to everyone and everything that made my internship possible, from the Heinz grant to my bosses, who trusted me enough to give me  real responsibilities.  In the future, the library will be in the forefront of my mind.  I hope that the library will continue to function in the capacity it does today, including the support of internships like mine.


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