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  • July 2020
    M T W T F S S

Teens 4 Change: Making a Difference in Pittsburgh

Last Tuesday, I was happy to attend a celebration held right in my library for a group of teens who have been working on quite the extracurricular activity for the past 7 months.  The 10 teens make up the committee of Teens 4 ChangeTeens 4 Change is a program put on by the Three Rivers Community Foundation. It gives the participants $7,000 to award to youth-led projects or projects aimed specifically for youth, through a grant process. Their motto is “Change, not Charity”. According to the TRCF, this program means to “increase youth participation in philanthropy… support youth involvement in community change, and promote youth service and giving.” (from their Spring 2012 newsletter).

At the presentation, the teens (Tahmina, Teje, Lynae, Mary, Sam, Lexy, Jordan, Oliver, Maddigan, and Molly) took turns explaining the selection criteria for their grants and their decision-making process. The projects they were looking for had to be

– youth-led, promoting youth activism

-somehow addressing divisions in society based on race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, religion, disability, or ancestry

– from grassroots organizations with budgets under $200,000 and acted as nonprofits

-focused on cutting-edge issues

-coming from workplaces that were ADA accessible

You can see that T4C had a lot to consider when they were making their decisions!

Starting in the fall, Teens 4 Change met every other week at CLP-East Liberty to learn about grantmaking, philanthropy, and social justice. Their requests for proposals had a deadline in March, and in May they had decided to award their money to 5 local organizations:

Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh

for CampOUT, an alternative summer camp for children of alternative families ages 6-14

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, Pittsburgh Chapter

for the Peer Advocates for Safe Schools (PASS) program, a 10 hour youth leadership and empowerment training program for high schoolers.


for the Clothesline Project, to bring awareness of domestic violence at high schools (originating at Shaler High School)

Prime Stage Theatre

for funds to tour their play “Everything is Fine” to schools and community organizations with limited budgets. The play was written, designed, produced, and presented by PST’s Teen Board.

Tree Pittsburgh

for a project in Homewood that taught community teenagers to become Tree Tenders

Do you think that Teens 4 Change sounds like a cool program?  It will be happening again next year. Or consider becoming part of the Three Rivers Community Foundation’s Youth Ambassador program, which runs over the summer.  The deadline to apply is June 1st. More information is found under the link.

Want to learn more about grants, advocacy and philanthropy?  The library has a special section at the Oakland location called the Foundation Center. It’s set up to help grant-seekers find funders to match their needs, and to learn about writing grants.  Want to become a Teen Advocate for the library?  You can do that, too! Ask the teen services person at your location how.

Or check out these books about youth activism:

Citizen you : doing your part to change the world / Jonathan M. Tisch with Karl Weber ; foreword by Cory A. Booker.

How to be an everyday philanthropist: 330 ways to make a difference in your home, community, and world–at no cost / by Nicole Bouchard Boles

Yes you can!: your guide to becoming an activist / by Jane Drake & Ann Love


Do Something!: A Handbook for young activists / by Nancy Lublin


– Tessa, CLP-East Liberty

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.

Teen Advocacy Day II – This Thursday!

On Thursday, August 19th, from 2-5 pm, Teen volunteers at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main (in Oakland) will be hosting Teen Advocacy Day II.  The first Teen Advocacy Day was a great time, and really made a difference in our 2009 fight for funding.

We’re hoping to repeat that success on Thursday, because the fight for funding continues.  So come on down to Oakland for a free program, where you we will have:

  • Button making – make yourself a button that shows you support the library.
  • T-shirt making – decorate a t-shirt with your personalized advocacy design.
  • Letter writing to influential politicians – write a letter to the RAD board, the Mayor, and the County Executive, urging them to fund libraries.
  • Video interviewing – get “library famous” by sharing what you love about the library.
  • Candy and cookie eating – of course we wouldn’t offer a big program like this without a few noshy bits!

We’re calling it Teen Advocacy Day, but it is really a program for all ages… so bring everyone you know, and have a blast while doing some good!

It’s Your Library — Help Keep It That Way

As teens, you’re in a tough position. Your political ideals are starting to gel, and your brain is starting to understand the complex relationship between governments, communities, and the private sector. At the same time, you can’t vote, and it seems that the adult world doesn’t want to listen.

Yesterday, however, I got a great reminder of what teens can accomplish when they put their mind to it. You might know that the most recent Pennsylvania State budget adds additional funding cuts to the already 27.8% cuts that were passed last year. These cuts have already taken away over 75% of the funding to the Access PA Power Library, which provides research databases to elementary, middle, and high schools across the state of Pennsylvania.

Two great teen volunteers, Tessa & Renata, staffed our National Library Week table for only one hour, but in that time managed to talk to over 70 people and inspire over 30 letters to the Pennsylvania state legislators responsible for keeping libraries funded and ensuring that children, teens, and adults all over the state–and especially Pittsburgh–can be served by their libraries.

What I’m trying to say is…


Our advocacy page has all the info you need to help make sure the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will last through your lifetime. You can use the library to help select your college and find scholarships. You can use the library to help you research your college essay and find books to read on your spring break. You can use the library to help prepare yourself for your first job. You can use the library to learn how to buy a house and raise kids who are just as smart as awesome as you are.

But first, we need your voice. Write! Give! Talk!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

Keep Our Manga Collections Alive by Checking Them Out! (P.S. – Miss Shojo Beat?)

Naruto never gives up! And neither should you... on our manga collection.

One of the most inspiring things from 2009 was watching tons of awesome teens help save their Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh neighborhood libraries through advocacy efforts that helped fund us through some really tough budgetary times.

However, what this library of the future actually has to offer could easily change if you don’t actually use the library to check out materials–and tell all your friends to do the same.

I’m going to give you a quick and easy lesson about how library budgets work:

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

I buy the manga for the Main library here in Oakland, and a lot of my decisions are duplicated (aka “piggybacked”) in our many branch libraries. The decisions I make and the amount of money I have to spend impacts the amount of manga available to check out throughout Pittsburgh.

If I can’t justify buying a new series (or continuing an old one) based on how many times people check out similar manga (or older titles in the same series), then everybody loses:

  1. I lose because I can’t buy cool new stuff, which is one of the fun parts of my job.
  2. Branch libraries lose because they have less and less to choose from when it comes to piggybacking.
  3. YOU LOSE because you can’t curl up at home with a free new manga that you were able to check out–again, for free–from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Circulation of manga fell 15% between 2008 and 2009. You can guess what happened to the budget.

Part of this is probably because you can pretty much read any translated manga series you want, online, for free, within a week of when it’s published in Japan. I can understand that.

What I hope you understand is what happens when you go entirely online and give up on the kinds of books that you can drag with you to bed, on a couch, or one of the comfy “foof chairs” we have in the Main library Teen section: they start to disappear.

And the whole reason you advocated for the library to begin with? All of the cool materials and services we provide to teens across Pittsburgh?

They’re gone.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

P.S. – DID YOU KNOW: The former manga monthly magazine Shojo Beat has re-emerged in an online-only format. Check it out here: Viz Signature Ikki!

Keeping Ya Off the Streets

I’m always at a loss for what to blog about.  So yesterday, when I started to work on this post,  I asked  Kwame what I should write about. 

Kwame: “You should write about keeping me off the streets.”

Me: “What?”

Kwame: “You know, I stay out of trouble after school because I come to the library. I could go downtown and get into trouble, but instead I come to the library.  It’s good for me.  You guys keep me in line.”

It might sound like I am making this up.  But if you know Kwame, you know that in fact I am not making this up.
When I talk to teens, I don’t often mention the research we teen librarians do in order to be effective youth advocates.   It would just be weird if I said to everybody who walked in: “You know by using the library you are highly reducing the probability that you will engage in risky behaviors after-school,”  or  “you know by reading that book for fun, you will become a more proficient reader and lead a very fulfilling life,” or “you are one of 22,000 teens registered for a library card in Pittsburgh, congratulations!” 
But Kwame is right.  We do keep you off the streets.   These things and more are true about teens who use the library.    So I’m going to share a few facts about teens and the library, considering Hazelwood, Beechview, Lawrenceville, West End, Carrick, and Knoxville teens are at risk for losing access to the wonderful things the library has to offer. 
 City Council is scheduled to vote on Wednesday to offer the library enough money to keep branches from closing in 2010.   You might say: “Well I don’t live in those neighborhoods.”  Well, libraries across the city will be losing funding for programs and staff under the Library Board’s proposed plan.  Just because your branch isn’t closing doesn’t mean the library as you know it now won’t lose programs, materials, or staff,  or that your branch won’t be next on the chopping block .     So when you are writing, calling, or emailing your city council representative, or telling your friends and family to do the same, you can use these facts about library:

The Utter Importance of Teens, Part 2

Something’s been nagging at me ever since I wrote The Utter Importance of Teens before here. I cited some pretty great things done by people who either are or were teens in our library.

But not every teen who walks through our doors ends up being a superachiever and that doesn’t mean we love having them any less or that we haven’t possibly made an impact on their lives.

I’m thinking of people like the teen mom who reads to her baby. Or the kids who stayed at our library because their parent told them not to come home until a certain time because that adult was either dealing drugs or having someone over for sex. Or those, who as little kids, wandered back and forth through the neighborhood and the library was a place for them to stop and stay a while.

Or the people, either now or once teens, who  are  solid citizens. Who maybe aren’t doing anything flashier than living their lives with hard work and integrity. And who need/needed a place to hang out with friends, a computer to play games on, a place to do homework or  find a book that just might touch their heart.

If you feel strongly about libraries, whether or not your local library is slated to be closed or not, come to this event:



Sunday, October 18th, 2009

2:00-5:00 PM

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)

Write a Letter

Contact Politicians

Make a Donation

Get the Facts

Tina Zubak

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh- Beechview

Teen Advocacy Day

Teen Advocacy 011On Sunday, October 18th from 2:00-5:00 PM, Teen volunteers at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main, will be staffing an information table.


The library is in big trouble. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has stood as a beacon of hope and a catalyst for improvement for over 100 years, and is too important to let the doors close on 5 branches.  We need to demand that the city increase the line item for libraries in it’s annual budget.  You can make a difference.


On Sunday you can:

  •  Write a Letter
  • Contact Politicians
  • Make a Donation
  • Get the Facts


I can’t wait to see you there!




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