Tag Archives: Oakland

A Week of Lunch Breaks at the Main Library

Editor’s note: Today’s post is very Oakland-centric.  Apologies to our readers abroad.

A good lunch break is a work of art.  (Just ask Frank O’Hara.)  That hour or so in the middle of the day offers so much possibility – a chance to recharge your batteries, run errands, get your daily allotment of exercise, catch up with a friend.  You have to treasure this time; it’s too easy to scarf a peanut butter sandwich at your desk while you catch up on email, only to realize that your next meeting starts in 5 minutes.  A lunch break offers precious respite from your busy day.

I worked in Oakland for a long time before coming to work at the Carnegie Library, so I’ve had years to develop a repertoire of lunchtime haunts.  I’m a grazer, so I’ve typically eaten my entire lunch by the time I’m ready to take a break, which leaves me more time for wandering.  And up until I began coming here every day for work, the Main Library was one of my go-to lunchtime getaways, and not just to pick up books.  I still love hanging out at Main, but for the most part I hang out elsewhere during my lunch breaks now.
(This is the curse of working at one of your favorite places.  Yeah, poor me.)

For all of you Oakland workers and students out there, I’d like to share my lunch break expertise and recommend for you a week of lunch breaks at Main.


You need to ease into the week, so nothing too strenuous.  Come on in through the front doors, pass through the New and Featured section, and enter the world of wonders known as the magazine reading room.

I pulled out a chair for you.

From this vantage point, you can indulge your low, middle, and high-brow reading tastes with a current selection of magazines.  I remember reading (probably in a magazine) an interview with Michael Stipe where he let out his secret for being (or appearing to be) intelligent and well-informed — read lots of magazines.  (You can also eat on the First Floor, making this the only of my lunch break suggestions where you can actually eat your lunch.)


Tuesday can  be disheartening.  So much work week left!  So, how about doing something nice for somebody?  Nothing like a kind act to buoy your spirits.

Here’s your task: pick somebody you care about, find out their birth date, then go find the front page of a newspaper from that day in the Microfilm room on the third floor.

Pretend to be an old time detective while you whir through the pages, but don’t whir so fast that you miss out on the old ads and other context.

Watch your fingers!

When you get your printout, feel smug knowing that you just spent a quarter or two and a lunch break doing something that someone else charges 25 bucks for.


By the middle of the week, your brain is humming with precision.  You are ready for a capital-E Experience.  And you are in luck, because the Music Department is hosting an art installation called AUDMCRS.  Listen to artist Corey Arcangel’s collection of trance and underground music.

Never a more inviting sight have I seen.

What an experience!


Thursday is a day for getting your act together, a day to prepare yourself for the end of the work week.  Your mind is cluttered, you’ve still got things in your inbox that need to be taken care of, and you need  a spiritual lift to get you through the week.

In other words, a day for poetry.

Pretend you’re in the Duquesne Club.

The International Poetry Room on the second floor is a treasure.  In addition to being one of the warmest parts of the building, it’s also a comfortable place to kick back, relax, and immerse yourself in a book of poems.


If you’re anything like me, the last lunch break of the week is typically a bit of a rush to prepare for the weekend.  So a stop at the library makes perfect sense.  For starters, if you’re wondering what to do this weekend, look left as you walk in the front door:

All kinds of events throughout the region advertised here.

And then, of course, it’s a mad dash to get whatever you’ll want to have at home for the weekend.  Maybe a big nonfiction undertaking from the New Books shelf in the Reference Department on the second floor, a stop in to Film and Audio to get a movie or something to listen to, or maybe some fiction on the First Floor.  On any given Friday, you will likely find me looking for a cook book, for weekends are when I have time to try new recipes.

So much cookery.

These are, of course, just suggestions.  Anybody out there have lunchtime favorites?  For you non-Oakland workers, where do you go for lunch breaks?

Oh, and don’t worry too much about me losing my lunch getaway spot.  I’ll make do with my new one, which is pretty nice, too.

-From the peanut-butter-covered keyboard of Dan


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A Much Abridged History of Towns and Gowns

1908, Western University of Pennsylvania, now named University of Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of the Library’s Pennsylvania Department)

I adore working in Oakland.  We have Phipps Conservatory. We have the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.We have Schenley Park, which possesses my favorite fountain.  We have tasty dining options (and the library isn’t bad either). It’s truly inspiring to come to work every day.

 A couple of other things that Oakland has: townies and gownies.  These two terms have been used since the middle ages to describe the residents and students in a particular area. Townies and gownies have lived side by side for ages, and the relationship has been a tumultuous one.

When western universities first began  in medieval Europe (Bologna, Paris, Oxford) they were formed under the Catholic Church, and students enjoyed some exemptions from local laws, courtesy  of the pope.  The students were considered minor clergy and as such wore gowns, hence the term “gownie.”  As you can imagine, this did not please the townspeople, especially because university students had a reputation for drinking and carousing.  These medieval students were not particularly fond of town merchants, who had a penchant for overcharging gownies for food and rent.

These tensions often boiled over.  In fact they boiled over so much that the University of Cambridge in England was founded in 1209 by “scholars seeking refuge from hostile townsmen in Oxford,” according to Cambridge’s own website.   Over one hundred years later in Oxford, sixty-three students and thirty townspeople died in the St. Scholastica Day Riot.  It began in a tavern, as students argued with the barkeep over the beer quality, or lack thereof.  A jug was smashed over the barkeep’s head.  A three-day riot ensued between townies and gownies.

Happily, Pittsburgh’s Oakland residents and students work hard to bridge the gap between them.  There’s the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, this group works with local universities and residents to improve the lives of all who live, work, and study in Oakland.  OPDC has an Oakland 2025 bold strategic plan that is worth a look.  The Oakland Business Improvement District is a group of business owners who work to maintain a vibrant commercial presence in the neighborhood. And the universities themselves do their best maintain a presence for good in the community, requiring volunteer hours of their students, investing in neighborhoods, and churning out graduates that help make Pittsburgh a well-educated city.  The Oakland student/resident relationship is not perfect, but it’s getting better as Pittsburgh works to improve all of its neighborhoods.  And hey, at least we’ve never had a St. Scholastica  Day Riot.

If you want to learn more about the history and evolution of Oakland, the library has you covered with books, and of course, Rick Sebak.



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Take a Walk on the Wise Side with the Library

Walking is one of the easiest and most recommended ways to lose weight and stay fit. It requires hardly any equipment, so the costs are minimal. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the will to get up and get moving.

A number of the neighborhood locations of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh have been participating in Wise Walk program for several years now. This fitness walking program, which is a collaboration of the Allegheny County Library Association, AARP and Highmark PALS (People Able to Lend Support) program, is geared toward adults aged 50 and up. But people of all ages are welcome to join the strolls around the library neighborhoods.

The Main Library in Oakland will be starting up a Wise Walk series for the first time this fall. Our 10 week session of walks around our neighborhood will begin on Friday, September 14th and run through Friday, November 16th. We will start at 10:30am and walk for about an hour. Water will be provided for the strolls and we will enjoy healthy, rejuvenating snacks afterward. Registration is required for the walks. Participants will be given t-shirts and pedometers to track the number of steps they walk in a day.  You don’t have to join us every week, but we would love to see you for a fun, energizing trip around Oakland.

For your reading, viewing and rambling pleasure, the library has these items (and more) to inform you about the benefits and best practices for beginning and maintaining your walking regime…


ChiWalking: The Five Mindful Steps for Lifelong Health and Energy by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer

The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness by Mark Fenton

Healing Walks for Hard Times: Quiet Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Get Your Life Back by Carolyn Scott Kortge

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson

Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together by Phil Zeltzman and Rebecca A. Johnson


Walk Yourself Fit: 3 Easy Workouts to Drop Pounds and Firm Up Fast with Chris Freytag

Leslie Sansone Walk at Home, Walk Your Belly Flat: 3 Mile Walk

Walk for Seniors with Leslie Sansone

Happy Walking!

-Melissa M.

P.S. And remember, the library has eAudio books available for you to download to your mobile device for free, so you can listen to a good book and exercise in the great outdoors at the same time. Just be sure to stay aware of your surroundings and watch out for traffic!


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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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It’s a Beautiful Day

 Fred Rogers would have been eighty years old last week. Pittsburgh’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Days celebrates his legacy, especially what it means to be a caring neighbor.  

Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. With 88 geographically distinct domaines, how could it be otherwise? (And to know that it’s the topography and/or geography that is responsible for the burgh’s hoods, just think of how many named areas there are in Pittsburgh that have one of these words in them: Wood, Woods, Land, Field, Glen, Park, Vale, and – Pittsburgh’s favorite – Hill.)

But to me Pittsburgh is a city of neighbors. My sense of Pittsburgh hospitality began the day my husband and I pulled our rental truck up to the curb, unfolded our cramped limbs and unlocked the door of our rental house. Strangers who lived nearby offered to help move heavy furniture and feed us dinner. By the time we’d unloaded our possessions we were too tired for dinner, but that night as we fell asleep we knew the names of our four nearest neighbors and wondered if we’d landed in Mister Rogers’ actual neighborhood.

The neighborhood’s real life cast of characters included a chatty corner crossing guard, the reliable postal deliverer (“Hi, I’m Bill and I’ll be bringing your mail!”), and the furnace repair man who, at his second house call, nodded at my husband and punched me on the arm with a “how yinz doin’?”

My goal as librarian at CLP is to be another purveyor of this Pittsburgh hospitality. I like to think of myself as one of Mister Rogers’ neighbors.

The First Floor – New and Featured Department will remember Mr. Rogers  by hosting two events in April.

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers , by Tim Madigan, is this year’s One Book One Community  program selection. A discussion focusing on this book will be held on the First Floor, Tuesday, April 22, 1:00 – 2:00 PM, with a second session from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

Saturday, April 26, 2:00 – 5:00 PM, join us on the First Floor for Celebrate Oakland!: A One Book One Community Event. Find out what makes Oakland so special in “Something About Oakland,” a documentary film by Rick Sebak. It’s part of the Pittsburgh History Series  produced for WQED. Afterwards, meet Mr. Sebak and enjoy a neighborhood open house with light refreshments.

Please won’t you be my neighbor?


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