Tag Archives: programming

Au Revoir, Allentown!


Today is the last day that the LYNCS outreach staff of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be providing library services at 1206 Arlington Avenue. This is a bittersweet transition for our department and our organization, after spending 2.5 years in this location, bringing library programming and services, and forming partnerships in this Hilltop neighborhood.


In what began as the Pop-up Library in Allentown, our initially scheduled eighteen months in this space ended up becoming a year longer, thanks in a large part to a grant from the Birmingham Foundation and our partners at the Brashear Association. The Brashear Association is a non-profit providing services to families and children out of their offices on the South Side of Pittsburgh.  Our relationship with the Brashear Association began with some simple after school programming at the pop-up library on a monthly basis through which we discovered shared goals, especially where children are involved. Their continued partnering and presence in the space soon highlighted the fact that a need on the Hilltop was being met through the activities and programming in this neighborhood storefront by the library staff, and thus encouraged them to continue to do the same through their afterschool program and summer camp.


We had some great moments over the 2.5 years – lots of fun programs, and we met so many great people. We’re so happy that the children and adults will continue to be served by the Brashear Association in their new space just around the corner on Warrington Avenue, and where we will continue to partner with them through occasional children and adult programming. You can follow their wonderful work at their Brashear Kids blog: http://www.brashearkids.com/

In the words of one of our pop-up library users:


Maria J.

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Go West…

As an outreach librarian for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I find myself in various neighborhoods throughout the city from week to week. In my year-end reflections, I’ve realized that through my job I’ve had the opportunity to discover new (to me) or otherwise unfrequented parts of this exquisite city of ours. Thanks to some programming I’ve been involved in over the past year, I’ve become much more familiar especially with two of our more western neighborhoods – The West End and Sheraden.

The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of our 19 locations which has had the benefit of a recent renovation. Now replete with a newly paved parking lot and elevator access, along with a very warm and comforting sitting area, this little branch is managed by colleague Mark Lee. It is a gem in the West End neighborhood both physically and with regard to the multitude of programming that goes on both in and outside of this sweet space, provided to visitors by a very excellent and welcoming staff.


The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Those of you who only know the West End as that place at the end of the West End bridge as you leave Heinz Field, would be surprised to know of all the library activity that goes on in that neighborhood. Beyond the branch at the corner of Neptune and Wabash are also the offices of the Allegheny County Library Association. Here, county librarians and library advocates work to promote library services around the county. In addition, just next door to the West End branch is the Library Support Center, which houses some great library workers who are responsible for everything from cataloging and labeling the many items that you see on our shelves, to the shipping department responsible for getting those materials out to the city and county libraries.

Here, too, resides the wonderful sorting machine, the staff who attend the machine, and van delivery staff (10 drivers, 1 manager and 8 vans!) – all of which make it possible for your requests to go from one library in the county to another in the matter of just a few days. These special workers are akin to Santa’s elves for the magic they perform in sorting and delivering to your local library that bestseller, DVD or much needed item for your child’s school project. (In 2013 alone, 4,099,800  library items were moved among the 74 libraries served by the shipping center).


A portion of the magical sorting machine which sorts hundreds of thousands of items a month!

Just beyond the West End, over a hill or two and around a couple of bends (through the hamlet of Elliott – which requires some further research on my part), one eventually gets to the neighborhood of Sheraden not even 2 miles from the West End. Here, the Sheraden Carnegie Library branch (headed by Ian Eberhardt, whom you may have seen on your TV as of late) shares a building and hallway with the Sheraden senior center, tucked away on Sherwood Avenue. Although one of our smaller branches, this location lacks for nothing in terms of programming, and has an extremely welcoming and helpful staff too!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this neighborhood, it is home to what I believe to be one of the most beautiful school buildings in the city of Pittsburgh, Langley K-8. Named for the same Langley of Langley Air Force base fame – Samuel Langley, a 19th c.  Western University of Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh) astronomy professor. The school sits high atop a hill in Sheraden, but be careful not to attempt to gaze at this school as you’re making your way through the busy intersection that sits just below, as I have a tendency to do when I’m out that way.


Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Both of these western neighborhoods, and more specifically, the senior centers that reside nearby to the neighborhood branches welcomed me for some exciting technology programming recently. I’m grateful to the centers, their directors and the fact that these programs opened up new doors and vistas in my daily work. I’m looking to discovering more of our many neighborhoods in the coming year(s) of my outreach and hope to share some more with you in 2015.

Happy New Year!

-Maria J.

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Summer Reading!

The summer solstice, which for those of us in Pittsburgh occurs tomorrow morning at 6:51 a.m., is the official kickoff of my favorite season. I love just about everything summer related. It can never be too hot or steamy for my tastes — maybe because I was born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the snake – once the temperatures climb above 70 degrees, I immediately crawl out from under the dark and cold of winter and spring, and head out to bask upon my summer rock — preferably with a good book.

For me, summer means fresh fruit, popsicles, sunshine, an explosion of vegetables in the garden, trips to a local watering hole (pool or pond or Great Lake), but mostly the leisure to read in a lounge chair in the sun of the backyard or the shade of the front porch. Summer reading has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was a young girl participating in the various summer reading programs at the (now closed) Caledonia branch of the East Cleveland Public Library. I would race to the new book display every time I visited that library, grabbing hungrily at as many of the fresh titles I could carry and hurrying to the circulation desk with cardboard library card in hand. I can still sense the cool and quiet of that library on a summer day, and I can even still smell those books that I used to bring home. Nancy Drew, Henry Huggins, The Great Brain, Betsy, Tacy & Tib, Harriet the Spy, and Lois Lenski’s cast of characters — all became my new found friends during those lazy days of my childhood summers.

Caledonia Library Circulation Clerk, Ms. Debrah Smith, c1978

Caledonia Library Circulation Clerk, Ms. Debrah Smith, c1978, courtesy of the  East Cleveland Public Library

From those early days of beloved chapter books, to the later years in which I had summer reading lists to attack for high school and college, to having my own children participate in our suburban Pittsburgh summer reading programs — libraries and summers have always gone hand in hand for me,  just like kick-the-can and ice-cream trucks.

In the world of books and reading, summertime also means that there’s no end to the “summer reading guides” on just about every website, in every magazine, newspaper and blog post — those lists that suggest “good beach reads” or your favorite author’s summer vacation reading choices. Thus, I feel it my duty as a librarian and bibliophile that I add to those lists, because as is the mantra in our house, you can never have, nor read, too many books! So I thought I’d share with you the “Maria J.’s Family” summer reading list. You might see some old favorites or discover new loves from this list. It’s not meant to be exceptional in any way — it’s just what’s happening in our household this summer, reading-wise. So, get out to your favorite neighborhood library, grab a few titles and pull up your favorite rock or lounge chair to enjoy your summer reads!



W.J. – age 13 — Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murder’s, and Murder on the Orient Express; Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker.


A.J. — age 17 — Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; Laura Hillebrand’s Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption; Robert Dallek’s Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy Whitehouse.


Mr. J. — Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; Page duBois’ A Million and One Gods: the Persistence of Polytheism; Christopher Moore’s Coyote Blue ; Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Change Your Life.


Maria J. — Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England; Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food; Jane Goodall’s Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants.



– Maria J.


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It’s Gardening Thyme


Allentown Pop-up library program – newspaper seedling pots

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

– Margaret Atwood

There are so many great quotes about springtime and gardening and many of them come from some of my favorite authors, such as the one mentioned above. I absolutely love this time of year – every day a new visual explosion of color and textures, not to mention the overload to the olfactory sense. On the days when I’m not digging and weeding and planting and planning, I like to read what other gardeners are saying about their (often near spiritual) experiences in working and planning  out their outdoor spaces.

I have a few favorites which I’ve been pulling out during the “too rainy to garden” days of late – The Writer in the Garden edited by Jane Garmey,  Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox, and the sweet little book that a friend gave me long ago which always brings a smile to my face, Sara Midda’s  In and Out of the Garden. One  other title I’ll mention is a recent purchase found while trolling through numerous book stores in a college town, titled Pleasures of the Garden; A Literary Anthology  selected by Christina Hardyment, which is filled with little essays that immediately transport you from your own yard to some of the greatest and humblest gardens in history.  I especially love the selections under the heading “Solace for Body and Soul” as it seems to vindicate for me the time and money I’ve spent hiding out in my own yard –I like to think  of Mother Nature as my own personal therapist! The art history major and amateur botanical illustrator in me also loves to just page through this book for the illustrations as varied as the essays themselves.

In reading gardening anthologies such as these, I feel as if I am part of a secret society that goes beyond the historic reaches of other such groups. I’m a kindred spirit with the likes of royalty and sages dating back thousands of years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deluding myself that my humble little suburban garden in any way reflects the great gardens of Babylon, Versailles, Giverny or Monticello, but those great works and the diligence of my own friends, family and neighbors have inspired me to play and work and smell like dirt at the end a great spring day.


Raised Bed Gardening in Allentown

Believe me, I understand that many either don’t share in this love or have the time and space to practice this ancient art of therapy for the body and soul.  But if you’re at all thinking about maybe one day getting started, a great place to do that is through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Not only do we have a spectacular collection of materials at the ready, but many of our branches coordinate a program called “Gardening Thyme,” made possible with support from The Mary Jane Berger Memorial Foundation.  It allows the Library to provide some really great programming related to gardening and urban farming; increase our collections about gardening for children, teens and adults, and have gardens at many of the CLP locations. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a wide variety of free programs – everything from seed bombs to  learning about bee keeping to finding out the benefits of composting. To find out more about these particular branches and their programs, go to  the Gardening Thyme page on the CLP website.  You won’t be disappointed and you may just find yourself enjoying the smell of dirt.


gardening thyme

-Maria J.



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Howdy, Partner!

There have been many great partnerships throughout history – Orville and Wilbur, Hillary and Norgay, the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), Rodgers and Hammerstein, Ben and Jerry,  the Curies, Bert and Ernie, Sherlock and Watson, Katniss and Peeta  -just to name a few. These partnerships, whether real or fictional, were formed over like interests and are a testament to what can be accomplished when people work together towards a common goal. Right here in Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is creating some great partnerships with the goal of literacy throughout the city.

I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Office of Programs and Partnerships (OPP). Within this department which is housed at the East Liberty branch of CLP, we have a great collection of staff reaching out to a variety of groups in their own unique way, forming partnerships and conducting programs throughout the city to promote a variety of literacies within the community.

The BLAST crew regularly head out to the Pittsburgh Public Schools and related events, connecting with our city’s young readers and future leaders, aiding in early learning and literacy skills.

The Labs @CLP work at providing space and time for teens to connect to new learning experiences via technology.  Teens, an often neglected and misunderstood demographic, are able to engage with fellow teens and library staff through unique, technology-centered literacy.

LYNCS, of which I am a member, reaches out to various groups in Pittsburgh to provide a variety of literacies in neighborhoods, communities and schools. We run the gamut of providing pre-school story times, senior citizen technology programs, information and hands-on technology  at community events, and financial and job literacy to Allegheny County Jail inmates alongside our colleagues from the various neighborhood branches. In addition, the LYNCS crew has managed a temporary, pop-up library in the neighborhood of Allentown, bringing library services and programming to a community lacking easy access to our neighborhood branches and their services.  Over the past year and a half that we have been in this temporary setting, we have had the pleasure of working with great community partners to provide access to library services, unique programming and a community center for this often neglected and little known Pittsburgh neighborhood. A great result of the partnerships formed with various Allentown and other Hilltop groups, has led to the pop-up library  transitioning to the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (ALEC), a project which would not have been possible without the partnerships formed with our community neighbors.


LYNCS colleagues at an outreach event.


The entire staff of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is working to reach out to all of the city neighborhoods, not only through library services and programming within the neighborhood branches, but also through a variety of outreach initiatives encouraging literacies beyond its brick and mortar locations. We are happily building new partnerships, whether it’s at the circulation desk or in a city park, not just during this National Library Week, but every day of the year.

-Maria J.


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American Life Stories

READ ABOUT IT! American Life Stories is the title of a new book discussion series coming this spring to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main. Funded by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, this 4-part series will be held on Tuesday evenings  from 6:30-8:00 pm in the Director’s Conference Room . Titles and dates are:

March 9: The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

March 30: When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

April 20: Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Faroozeh Dumas

Mary 18: Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement by Dennis Banks

We are happy to announce that Dr. Liane Norman Ellison, a local author and poet, will be leading the discussion.


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