• Recent Posts

  • CLP_Teens

    Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

  • Blog Categories

  • Archives

  • July 2020
    M T W T F S S

Welcome To America’s Most Livable City?

The number of stories praising Pittsburgh keep piling up. From Most Livable to Best Places to Retire, from Top City for Geeks to Best Place to Buy a Home, Pittsburgh seems like the new cool place to be. But if everybody all over America saying Pittsburgh is so great, why is Pittsburgh rapper Jasiri X calling Pittsburgh “Clicksburgh, Pistolvania?” Is it true, as Jasiri X says, that Pittsburgh has the highest rate of Black poverty among 40 comparable US cities? Is Pittsburgh the “Most Livable City” in the United States?


These are important questions to ask. Jasiri X is talking about Black poverty, and since almost 30% of Pittsburgh’s residents are African-American according to U.S. Census data, that’s three out of ten people.  That’s a lot of Pittsburghers. U.S. Census data shows that the rate of African-Americans who live in poverty in Pittsburgh is around 35.6%– certainly among the highest rates in the country. People who live in poverty have a harder time paying for housing, food, transportation and even the things that would help to lift them out of poverty, such as getting a college degree.

To make matters worse, in some of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods, there has been an increase in gun violence recently. In 2013, little Marcus Lamont White, Jr., a baby in East Hills was killed when somebody started to shoot at a community barbeque. Wiz Khalifa’s uncle was shot and killed outside the Steak ‘n Shake at the Waterfront in January, 2014. Late that same month, Hosea Davis, the man who saved a girl at the East Liberty Target from a man with a knife was shot ten times with a high-powered gun in the back. Four of the nine homicides in Allegheny County as of January 29, 2014 were African-American. In 2013, 42 of the 62 lives taken were African-American.

Gun violence and poverty levels in Pittsburgh beg the question: if Pittsburgh is the Most Livable City, who is it most livable for? How would the levels of Black poverty and gun violence in Pittsburgh affect national praise for Pittsburgh if they were taken into closer consideration? Is Pittsburgh still “Most Livable” in spite of its challenges? What do you think? How do we explain the differences between some Pittsburghers’ experiences with poverty and gun violence and national articles about how great Pittsburgh is? And finally, what are Pittsburghers doing about these problems?

There are many groups and individuals who are trying to stop gun violence in our city. One of them is Vanessa German, a spoken word artist who lives in Homewood. She exhibits her visual work and performs internationally. Vanessa created the signs that say, “Stop Shooting-We Love You” that you might have seen all over Pittsburgh. They are one of her responses to shooting in her neighborhood and beyond. Vanessa also runs ArtHouse—an after-school house where kids can come to do art alongside her. You need to hear Vanessa German if you want to better understand the strengths of Pittsburgh. She’s amazing! Here is a link to a recent performance Vanessa did about the beauty and challenges of Homewood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aktAjeFqtvw

Another is Sharon Flake, the Pittsburgh author of The Skin I’m In, Bang!, You Don’t Even Know Me and Pinned, among others. Sharon writes about kids who are dealing with poverty and violence. Sometimes reading about situations like yours can make you feel less alone. Reading about kids unlike you can help you to understand the world from many perspectives.


Check out some of these great books about gun violence, growing up poor, and how in spite of hard circumstances, people find strength through their connections to other people. And if you want to read more about Pittsburgh’s best-of lists, gun violence in our city and other ideas in this blog article, here’s a list of links:

“30 Years of Hell With The Lid Off to Most Livable: How Pittsburgh Became Cool”


“18 Reasons Why Pittsburgh is the Greatest City on the Planet”


Forbes.Com Rates Pittsburgh No. 1 “Most Livable City”


WYEP Gun Violence in Pittsburgh:


Vanessa German:


Sharon Flake:


Sheila-Hill District

Larimer teens discover the music of the future: No Generation Podcast

Just down the street from both CLP – East Liberty and CLP – Homewood is the Kingsley Association, a community center extraordinaire. They have a pool, basketball court, yoga classes, community meetings, and a Youth Advisory Council.

An EEYAC meeting

An EEYAC meeting


I recently went to an unveiling of the Council’s new project: a podcast called No Generation Radio.


Artwork by Blaine Siegel

Teenagers from EEYAC had come together with local artist Blaine Siegel to create the podcast. They interviewed community members of Larimer to find stories from their past and present dealing with music, and then musicians from Larimer and other Pittsburgh neighborhoods imagined what the music of the future in Larimer would be like, based on those stories.

This includes David Bernabo, who said on his blog that his future music piece was created “us[ing] census data and analysis to forecast how Larimer will change in the future. I imagine that gentrification would occur to some extent and the neighborhood will become more racially integrated. From a musical standpoint, I am presenting music that would exist for an educational use. The idea was that music could be encoded in the future to “push” knowledge to the listener.”

All 7 podcasts can be heard on the No Generation tumblr. Check them out!



If you’re interested in creating a podcast, you can do it at the library!  The Labs have the equipment and mentors to help you realize your vision and put it out into the world. Come to one of the Labs locations!

Check out these books to get you started:

guidetopodcasting   podcasting101

And, don’t forget, the library has many Teen Advisory Councils in its locations – if you want to bring your fun ideas to the library for old and new friends to enjoy, make it happen!


-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty


World Kindness Day

I bet you didn’t know that today is World Kindness Day.  I didn’t know it either until a few days ago, but I think it’s a great idea.  The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a great website with ideas about how you can help and get involved in your community, cards and bookmarks, and resources about how kindness can make you a happier and healthier person.  And the best part is that it is FREE and EASY to practice kindness.  It can be as simple as smiling or saying hello to someone.

The Library is also a great place to turn for ideas about kindness.  You can volunteer at one of your local branches,  find a great book about kindness, or even go shopping to help the Library and the community!  Here are some great examples of items we have that can help you on your journey to be a kinder person:

 Do One Nice Thing:Little Things You Can Do To Make the World a Lot Nicer by Debbie Tenzer.  Debbie Tenzer is the founder of a website (DoOneNiceThing.com) that focuses on how making small improvements can make a big difference to the world around you.  Her website has a bunch of great ideas and stories, including ways to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  In her book, she offers a bunch of easy ideas that people can do to help that won’t take much time or money.  This is a great resource for anyone who is looking for simple ways to practice kindness.

The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference by Linda Kaplan Thayer and Robin Koval.  The authors are  advertising executives who offer a number of stories how the smallest acts can influence the biggest decisions.

Jim-CLP Sheraden

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

Local Teen Origami Superstar Scott Stern

The first time I tried origami was in March at our Teen Summer Reading training at the spacious Penn Hills Library. I only made a peace crane, but it was still challenging.  Origami requires some seriously tricky creativity, all in the name of beauty. I respect things that are complicated and ultimately impractical, so I was psyched to hear from a colleague that a local high school student and member of the Origami Club of Pittsburgh, Scott Stern, had recently published a book of his own mind-blowing folds, entitled Outside the Box Origami.

If you take a look at the cover, you’ll see that the design in question is actually a box with two arms reaching out of it. Made of one sheet of paper!  It’s the most challenging design in the book, requiring at least 100 folds.

You can check out a video of Scott doing his origami thing in this Post-Gazette article, and please note that Scott began his illustrious career at the Origami Club meetings held at the Squirrel Hill Library!  You see, it pays to pay attention to our library events.

Check out some of the fun, amazing stuff you can make from Scott’s book by clicking on the link below (my favorite is the little skull):


Kudos, Scott!

If this has piqued your interest, keep your eye out for Teen Summer Reading Origami events.  I know I’m going to be having one at my library

– Tessa (CLP – East Liberty)

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.

That’s Not Cool

There has been some excellent coverage here on the blog about the recent, tragic spate of suicides caused by bullying.  If you haven’t read them yet, you should!:

Make it Better – a message to everyone

Think About It

What I’d like to call your attention to today is a website where you can catalog actions you’ve taken against bullying.  It’s called That’s Not Cool, and you can check it out here:


That’s Not Cool offers help with digital abuse – be it from your significant other, friends, enemies, or all shades of gray in-between.  It offers Call-Out Cards for actions that are not cool, links to resources for anyone who may need extra support, and a forum for people to talk about issues of digital bullying and abuse.  It also has a games section.

Talking about these problems may not solve them, but it definitely helps to talk about them and to fight back against abusive actions.  If you’re being harrassed over IM, text messaging, email, or anywhere online, it’s not cool.  Let people know.

Also check out Draw Your Line, a resource put together by MTV to collect all the ways teens are fighting digital abuse.

Social Networking for You

We all know about Facebook and MySpace.  But have you heard about Smart Girls at the Party or iTwixie, or Nerdfighters?  Smart Girls at the Party was partially created by Amy Poehler.  Yes, the same actress and comedian who stars in Parks and Recreation  on NBC and was a cast member on Saturday Night Live:

photo by flickr user Rubenstein

The website is chock full of videos made by teen girls (and boys, surprisingly) about their lives and interests.  The philosophy seems to be that if you pursue what you’re really interested in, you will make the world a better place.  For example, here’s a video about making battlebots that was posted on Smart Girls at the Party:

Amy also makes her own video interviews with Smart Girls, and her two co-conspirators make 20 second songs and crafts, respectively.

iTwixie was just named “one of Disney FamilyFun Magazine’s top 10 websites for kids this month”, according to Pop City Media.  It was developed partly thanks to a local business innovation grant! Go Pittsburgh!

Much of the content is not available if you’re not a member (there’s that privacy thing popping up again), but I can tell you that it is advertisement free and includes chatting, blogging, article-writing, and other good things.  Like a songwriting workshop!  And contests to win things like guitars.

Last but certainly not least, there are the Nerdfighters.  You may have read a book by John Green.  We have them at the library, and we gave one of them away as rewards for summer reading.  Here, let me refresh your memory:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Looking For Alaska


An Abundance of Katherines




Well, John Green and his brother Hank used a website called Ning to make their own social network.  Since they do great creative things and make funny videos, their fans have made this Ning very popular.  It is well worth exploring if you are interested in “increas[ing] awesome and decreasing world suck.”

By the way… John Green is coming back to Pittsburgh to speak for the Black, White, and Read All Over speaker series on January 28th.  Tickets are relatively cheap ($15), and now you have a head start on reading his books in prepartation for going!  I’ll be there.  I’ll be the one in whitish glasses frames.


Charissa Hamilton-Gribenas is a Pittsburgher who lost her husband to Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He was only 31, and she realized that there was a need for real stories and support for young adults fighting cancer.  With the help of the Sprout Fund, she was able to publish a book of 15 stories about young adults and their experiences with the disease.

On her blog she describes the beginning of her project:

“In the 3 short years I spent with Rick I learned a lot about cancer, the injustices of our healthcare system, and how few resources are dedicated to addressing the basic needs (and ultimately the survival rates) of young adults diagnosed with cancer in their 20s and 30s. After Rick’s passing I knew that we had worked too hard for too long for me to keep all the little bits of knowledge I had learned to myself. My desire to help young adults with cancer did not end when Rick’s life did, but rather was fueled by it- I knew that now more than ever I needed to dedicate the exhausted and frazzled remains of myself to fighting this fight, and that by doing so I could make something positive come out of this experience. One key lesson that I learned from my husband was that every experience, even the negative ones, had value. They can all teach you something if you let them. This is to be no exception.”

Charissa and the BRICKS books

Her organization and the book are called BRICKS, which stands for Building Resources in Cancer Knowledge & Services.  Free copies can be had just by contacting Charissa.  A recent article in Tonic Magazine describes the kinds of stories that are shared in the book:

“’The Assless’ tells how a young man customized his bicycle to let him ride to and from hospital visits without risking the spread of the disease. ‘Cancer Free, Ohio OR Second String Friends’ tells of a young woman suffering from an ‘old man cancer,’ renal cancer. ‘A Chemo Story’ tells of 20-year-old Luke Ferdinand’s fight against not only non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma, but also the rigid institution of cancer treatment: ‘As I was not yet 21, I was admitted as a pediatric patient, given a pediatric chemo course on the children’s floor of the hospital and generally treated like, well, a child.’ Ferdinand remembers watching the series finale of Seinfeld at the Ronald McDonald House while everyone around him ‘seemed younger, sicker.'” – Sam Brand

Hamilton-Gribenas has also done Roller Derby and dance party fundraisers, a bike ride and talk with a cancer survivor (Ezra Caldwell–also a contributor to the book), and other events around the city to promote and support the organization.

Poster for the release party by Mike Budai

photos used courtesy of Charissa Hamilton-Gribenas

If you’re fighting a disease (cancer or another health problem), or know someone who has cancer or has fought cancer, this could be a great resource for you.  Click on the links to find out more, or become friends with BRICKS on Facebook..

And you can also check out these books from the library:

Teenage Cancer Journey by Kathleen Gill:

At times both humorous and heart-wrenching, Teenage Cancer Journey describes the author’s personal struggles with philosophical questions (“Why me?”), as well as with practical dilemmas (“Will my wig stay on while I’m riding a roller coaster?”).

Teens with cancer by Gail B. Stewart ; photographs by Carl Franzén. : Four young cancer patients talk about how they were diagnosed with cancer, the support they received, and their chances for recovery.

After ever after by Jordan Sonnenblick : Although Jeff and Tad, encouraged by a new friend, Lindsey, make a deal to help one another overcome aftereffects of their cancer treatments in preparation for eighth-grade graduation, Jeff still craves advice from his older brother Stephen, who is studying drums in Africa.

Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen: When Johanna shows up at the beginning of summer to house-sit next door to Finn, he has no idea of the profound effect she will have on his life by the time summer vacation is over.

Let Your Voice be Heard about Libraries

As the teen and children’s  librarian in one of the libraries that  almost closed last year, I know very well the power of the collective voice. Last year, people held rallies, sold lemonade or keys, wrote letters and came to meetings to prevent my library and three others from being deep-sixed. But..

It’s not over.

We’re holding public meetings on the future of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and teens should and must be heard. Other library systems like ours are even appointing teens to their boards of trustees to make sure libraries are meeting their needs.

Let our staff and board members know how much you appreciate things like:

  • Teen librarians, books, computers, magazines, DVDs and more

  • Gaming, summer reading prizes and other programs

  • Having a say in what your library does

Hear what sort of decisions need to be made and help set  priorities for the future of the library. Workshops will be at:

* Saturday, May 15 / 10 am – Noon
   Serbian Club · 2524 Sarah Street, 15203

* Saturday, May 15 / 2 – 4 pm
   Sheraden Senior Center · 720 Sherwood Avenue, 15204

* Sunday, May 16 / 2 – 4 pm
   CLP – Allegheny · 1230 Federal Street, 15212

* Monday, May 17 / 6:30 – 8:30 pm
   St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church · 419 S. Dithridge Street, 15213

If you can’t make it to a meeting, you can fill out an online survey and find out more on  the Community Converation web page.

If you haven’t heard yet, the teen summer reading theme is Make Waves @ your library. This is definitely your chance!

                                 Tina Zubak   Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh- Beechview

%d bloggers like this: