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  • January 2011
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A Top 10 List

I almost forgot to write a blog post today. Oh, no! And I’m still not entirely sure what to write about. Hmm…the John Green event tomorrow night?  No, Brooke did that yesterday.  (Although, looking at the official event page made me super excited — how did I not know that Armoured Bearcub will be there?!?)

How about a blog post about the ALA Midwinter Conference?  After all, it was just a couple weeks ago and I DID get to help pick the winner of the Morris Award, The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston.  But…really? A blog post about a conference?  How boring.  Also, I still haven’t read the Printz award-winner, Shipbreaker, and I can’t blog about Midwinter without being able to discuss the biggest award given out that weekend. (In my opinion.  Yours might be different.)

So, for lack of anything better, I’m going to give you a Top 10 List.  Enjoy!

(I lied. It’s not really a Top 10 List.  It’s just a list of 10 things.)

The Answers to 10 Questions I Asked or Answered on January 27, 2011 (No, I’m not going to tell you the questions — where’s the fun in that?):

1.  Mango Languages! As long as you have a library card, you can access the database and learn tons of different languages.  It’s really easy to use.

2.  No, sorry, not Lithuanian.  How about Farsi?

3. 6:00 Monday through Thursday, 5:00 on Saturdays.

4.  Picture books are designed for adults to read to children, Readers are designed for beginning readers to read to themselves.

5.  Down the stairs and to the right, at the end of the hall.

6.  Yes, we do have a tombstone in the library!  Come on in on Saturday and you can take a look — we’ll find you some books on the occult, too.

7.  We do have the 1040, but the booklets haven’t come in yet.  If you’re looking for other tax forms, we can help you find them online.

8.  No, sorry, I can’t tell you which tax form to fill out.

9.  Yeah, let’s have a Teen Wii program on February 23rd.

10.  You could try using peanut butter, but I don’t know what that would do to the computer screen.

As you can see, my days are way less teen-oriented then they used to be — but I’ll say one thing for life back in a Branch Library: It’s NEVER boring!


CLP – Lawrenceville

Don’t Miss This!

I’d be excited if I were you…
Excited because one the best YA writers of our times is coming to speak in Pittsburgh this week.   Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures has invited John Green, YA novelist and Vlogbrother to speak at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland.
Tickets are still available here.

I like all Green’s books each in their way.  I usually like their realistic characters, and geeky humor best.  Green’s talk on Friday night will likely focus on his newest book Paper Towns.

But if you haven’t before now, you owe it to yourself to backtrack to his earlier books, particularly his first novel, Looking for Alaska.

I’m not the only one who thinks it’s awesome.  It won the most prestigious award for YA literature back in 2006. Check out the Vlogbrother’s channel on YouTube to hear a recent post about writing Looking For Alaska, then winning the Printz Award.

Once you’ve blazed through all of John Green’s awesome books, why not check out a few other Printz Award winners?



As you might be aware, the Pittsburgh Steelers are prepping invites to the AFC Championship game this Sunday at 6:30 PM, to be played at Heinz Field. It seems LaMarr Woodley was a little late sending his, so he had to tweet one:

Manwhile, the playlist for the Steelers’ road to the Super Bowl has undoubtedly been the banging Wiz Khalifa anthem “Black & Yellow.”

Now, what you might not be aware is that the part at which they’re all waving terrible towels on the roof of the Dairy Mart is ACTUALLY RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY OF PITTSBURGH – HAZELWOOD! Don’t believe me? Check it out.

Speaking of libraries, here are a couple of books you might enjoy (see if you can spot the theme):

Street Pharm
by Allison van Diepen

Ty Johnson has an amazing business acumen for a 17 year-old. Unfortunately, his business is dealing drugs. But it isn’t long after picking up where his now-incarcerated dad left off that he meets a girl who might just have what it takes to set him straight.



by Patricia McCormick

Lakshmi is a 13 year-old who leaves her poor mountain home in Nepal thinking that she was going to get work in the city as a maid. It isn’t long before she learns she has been sold to work the sex trade in India, with no hope for escape.



We also have books in case any of your younger siblings are Jets fans, as suggested by our Children’s Department:


Lose, Team, Lose
by R.L. Stine

Jennifer Ecch is so tough… She’s at Rotten School on an Arm Wrestling scholarship! Bernie Bridges calls her Nightmare Girl. But she’ll do anything to get him to be her boyfriend. That’s why she joined the all-boys football team. With Jennifer playing, they can’t lose. But wait. If they win, they have to play the National Champion team: the Bone Breakers! Someone’s got to stop the attack of the Ecch–or else Bernie and his teammates will be in the hospital by halftime!


Losers, Inc.
by Claudia Mills

Ethan Winfield and his best friend, Julius Zimmerman, are losers … and proud of it! They read only the shortest books for book reports and always have the worst project for the annual science fair, not to mention that they are pretty hopeless at sports. So Ethan and Julius form Losers, Inc., an exclusive club of two. But when a new student teacher shows up at school, Ethan tries to impress her and suddenly finds himself trying not to be a loser. Will Ethan have to resign as vice president of Losers, Inc.?


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

Video Contest: Show us why you NEED your library!

photo by flickr user Yorkton Film Festival


Here’s a great way to practice your filmmaking skills and help the library out at the same time: 

1. Make a short (3 minutes or less) film for the American Library Association’s Why I Need My Library contest, showing why you really NEED your library.  You can use digital animation, live action, or something other mind-blowingly creative method.

2. Submit the film through YouTube and get exposure for yourself and your library!

3. Possibly WIN up to $3,000 for your library and maybe a $50 gift card for books.

I know that there are talented teen filmmakers out there who know the value of their libraries:

[YouTube= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2tJCPu_YZg%5D

The deadline for the contest is APRIL, but now is the perfect time to assemble your crew, start storyboarding, and let your local teen librarian know about your plans so (s)he can offer support and resources.  Each CLP location should have a FlipCam for you to use, and a computer with Windows MovieMaker. 

Here are some guidelines and a list of tips and resources from ALA.  They include a bunch of great websites and books for you to use.

Here are a couple titles available at your local library:

   Movie making course : principles, practice, and techniques : the ultimate guide for the aspiring filmmaker / Chris Patmore

Get animated! : creating professional cartoon animation on your home computer / Tim Maloney.

What’s New in Censorship and Free Speech?

I follow news about censorship and First Amendment issues for a couple of reasons.  First of all,  I find it is useful for my job.  As you know, public libraries have a mandate to provide equal access to all kinds of information.  In fact, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh adopts the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights as a policy.  My favorite amendment is: “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Yay!

Second, I just find it fascinating.   Reading up on things like book challenges and privacy issues in the information age is a good compass for where moral, ethical, and religious tensions lie, and how we as a society are trying to (or not trying to) work through these tensions.

So, without further ado, here are a few recent First Amendment and censorship news stories you may have missed.

  • Last month at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. an exhibit titled Hide/ Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, attracted the ire of some congress members as well as the Catholic League.   A short film that was part of the exhibit featured ants crawling on a crucifix.  The Smithsonian withdrew the controversial film from the exhibit.  This attracted the ire of free speech advocates, including the Warhol Foundation, which threatened to withdraw funding from the Smithsonian.
  • A new edition of Huckleberry Finn changes Mark Twain’s original text.  This new version replaces the word “n****r” (used 219 times) with the word “slave.”  Huck Finn is always at the top of challenged book lists, precisely because of this racial slur.  The author of the new version is an English Professor at Auburn, and  believed that the book could be taught more often, if only they did away with the offensive term.  Free speech advocates opposed to the change argue that teachers will miss the opportunity to educate students on post-civil war racism.
  • If free speech is one side of the first amendment coin, privacy is the other.  Pennsylvania Homeland Security was in the news this fall, after the office was accused of violating the right to privacy for some PA residents.  Among other things, the office was accused of equating environmental groups with terrorists. “They were tracking down protesters and grilling their parents,” according to reports.  The state office worked with a private corporation to investigate private individuals who were politically active, especially people opposed to natural gas drilling.

If you want to read more about censorship, check out the CLP Teen Banned Books Week web pages. That’s right, the library has books lists, pathfinders to other websites, and links to news about banned books and other censorship issues!



New Year, New Inspiration

Most of us have resolutions for the New Year, and they can be pretty grim, and involve sticking to some sort of diet or exercise plan, or achieving some goal that will require time and effort.  These can all be well-intentioned and “good for you”, but I urge you to consider a resolution that just consists of having cheap, collaborative FUN.

A resolution of making a little art in the new year, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist.

A resolution of observing what’s around you!

Here’s my suggestion for how to do that:

– Make your own 1,000 journals project

It’s like a nice version of the Burn Book from Mean Girls

Brian Singer is a designer from San Francisco.  10 years ago he got some blank notebooks, asked artists to decorate their covers, and sent them out across the world with the exhortation to fill a couple pages and pass them on.  You can see some images from the journals here or here

Of course, the original journals can’t be used anymore, but you can sign up to add your stamp to a whole new slew of them at 1001journals.com.  Or, why don’t you start a localized project in your community or your school, or bring it up at a Teen Advisory meeting at your local library??

Once you get your journal, the blank page can be defeating. What can you fill it with?  Here are some great books to get you started:

  Picture This / Lynda Barry

It’s not a traditional how-to draw guide or even a how-to art guide.
It’s a why
not art? guided meditiation.
It’s not a graphic novel, it’s a big book of inspiration.







   PostSecret: extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives

    Decorated postcards with not-so-everyday confessions.  Everyone has something to say!









   Collage Sourcebook: exploring the art and techniques of collage

   Rip it up, glue it down, mix it up to make it say something completely new.






  American Elf: October 26, 1998 to December 31, 2003 : the collected sketchbook diaries of James Kochalka

  Everyday moments are art, too.

Winter Read-a-Thon

If you like to read and would like to help raise some money for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, you might want to register for the Winter Read-a-Thon.  The Winter Read-a-Thon kicked off on January 8th and runs through February 19th. 

Register for the Winter Read-a-Thon at any Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location. For a $5 registration fee, you will receive a clock bookmark to help you track how much time you’ve read, plus a pledge form and calendar of related library events.  You can also register online

Tell your friends and family about the Library and how much you love to read – and how their pledges will help keep Pittsburgh well-supplied with books, magazines, audiobooks and other reading material.  Track how much time you spend reading between now and February 19, 2011. The more you read, the more money you raise!

So, what’s on my Reading Log so far?

I had selected a few poems to read for Saturday’s Family Read-Aloud that was held at CLP–Mt. Washington to kick off the Winter Read-a-Thon.  One of the poems was written by Alexandra Melvin, a finalist for the 2010 Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest.


The oven beeps

The scent of caramelizing sugar permeates the air

The door opens and steam wafts out

A puddle of brown dough

Starts to cool on the tray

I just can’t wait

I pick one up

Still piping hot

Break it in half

Melted chocolate oozes out

I take a bite

The warm cookie melts in my mouth

Sending my taste buds on a journey

Bringing me back to my younger days of

Watching my mother pull a tray out of the oven

As I sit on the counter

Feet dangling above the floor

Eyes bright with anticipation

Waiting eagerly

For my own bite of happiness

Alexandra Melvin

Read more great poetry along with short stories and creative non-fiction in the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology 2010All of the poems, short stories and non-fiction essays were written by high school students from Allegheny County. 

I’ve also spent some time reading  The Story of Brutus by Casey Anderson.

From Chapter 8 “Fathers and Sons”:

“You only get one chance to make a first impression, but when it comes to a grizzly bear, you’d better hope that it is a good one.  I have been with several people during their first grizzly encounter, and the moment is always exhilarating and life-changing.  To walk on common ground with an animal who is both noble and regal, and who can kill you in seconds, is not only very humbling but makes you realize how wonderful and wild the world is.  It makes you feel alive.”  p. 61

So, what’s on your Reading Log?


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