Tag Archives: Pittsburgh neighborhoods

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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Reservoir of Jazz

Jazz performers in Highland Park

Once or twice I’ve written here about Highland Park – either the neighborhood or the park itself,  because where I live and the paths that cross there provide for some quality moments in time.  Every Sunday in August the Highland Park Community Club and Citiparks presents Reservoir of Jazz; a series of free jazz concerts in the park adjacent to Reservoir No. 1, the uncovered one with the walking path around it.  While the concerts start at 5:00, if the weather is good people begin arriving as early as noon, staking out the better parking along the loop in the park and on Highland Ave. By 6:00 we can sit on our porch and enjoy both the aural and visual stimulation.  We get to hear the music and watch the bee like ballet of cars inching up and down Bunker Hill Rd., turning onto our street, backing out, three point turns, all in the vain attempt to find that hidden spot that precludes a 500 yard walk uphill to the park.

Depending on the performance, the music itself is the gamut that is jazz; electric, Dixie, be-bop and swing, or Afro-Caribbean.  Some of it I truly enjoy while others are lost on me.  That doesn’t mean I don’t stay outside to listen and watch.  This is Pittsburgh.  Outside of the neighbors on our block, there are always friends and acquaintances walking or driving up and down Bunker Hill going to the concerts; there’s always someone to say “hi” to.  Perhaps the funniest episodes are the double-takes from library users who pass by.  We have that disconnected moment that happens when you meet people out of context – at the store, while they’re walking to a Sunday jazz performance, or sitting on their porch in sandals and shorts drinking a beer.  “You’re the library guy.”  I think I enjoy these Sunday afternoons more for their social and community value than for the music itself.

I tend to like my jazz slow, dark, smokey and relaxing.  I didn’t go to my senior prom; instead about 6 of us went to a club in NY called Sweet Basils and listened to Ron Carter play bass all night – back when smoking indoors was legal and you could be 18 to get a drink.  My other favorite jazz memories are from late nights in the garage listening to Israel Radio’s equivalent of WDUQ’s “Nightside” program with Tony Mowod.  Me, a fleet of John Deeres and Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins and all was right with the world.  Here are some of my favorites, new and old that sometimes take me back and always leave me content.

  • Last Call at the Balcony.  A mournful mixed set recorded at a Shadyside landmark the last night it was open in 1997.
  • Jazz for a rainy afternoon.  A compilation of 19 pieces by some of the greatest performers of the last 50 years.  It’s what you’d expect and want to hear at 2 am on a rainy November night.
  • Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.  A beautiful warm session of 5 works by Ellington, one by Coltrane and one by Billy Strayhorn recorded in 1962.  It’s musical honey when you hear it.
  • One night with Blue Note preserved.  A two CD set (originally 2 LPs) recorded in 1985.  A veritable Who’s Who of New York’s preeminent jazz men of the day.  A most ambitious effort if you’re new to jazz.

– Richard

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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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