• 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

Black History Month Spotlights Return to CLP Carrick!

Every Tuesday in February last year, CLP Carrick’s weekly teen program, Teen Thing, focused on a different African American pioneer with a creative activity related to the accomplishments of said pioneer.  We made stop-motion zombie flicks in honor of Duane Jones, flipbook comics for Frank Braxton, 3D glasses for Valerie Thomas, and watched a documentary about the arts scene in Brooklyn in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

It was all pretty awesome.

So… when the topic of continuing the weekly Black History Month events came up this January, Teen Think, Carrick’s Teen Advisory Group, voted unanimously to continue the spotlights with this year’s theme of music.  Throughout February, Teen Thing will be spotlighting innovative and influential African American musicians who have significantly contributed to the sounds of rock, jazz, punk, and hip hop – and it all starts this week!

Tuesday, February 4th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Blues and Early Rock and Roll

The mysterious Robert Johnson

Into artists like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Jack White, and The Black Keys??? Come find out about the African American blues and rock musicians that influenced them – artists like Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry.

Oh, and make your own harmonica while you’re at it!

Other events include:

Tuesday, February 11th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: All That Jazz

Pittsburgh’s Mary Lou Williams

Tuesday, February 18th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Punk 101 – Bad Brains

Washington D.C.’s legendary Bad Brains

Tuesday, February 25th
Teen Thing / Black History Month Spotlight: Hip Hop and Change

Saul Williams

Find out where the music you like comes from at our Black History Month Spotlights!  Teen Thing happens every Tuesday afternoon from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM and is open to anyone in grades 6-12 or age 12-18.

Jon : Carrick

Renaissance Festival Time!!

Fall might be my favorite time of year for many reasons.  Football season is starting (the Broncos are playing the Ravens tonight!!), the nights get colder and way better for sleeping, apples and pumpkins are coming into season AND it is time for the annual Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival!!  if you have never been there it is an awesome place to visit and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history, Game of Thrones or even dressing up in cool costumes!


There are four weekends left in the renaissance festival so enjoy it while you can!

If you are not able to make it to the Renaissance festival or you just want to immerse yourself into the 16th Century, the Library has some great books and movies.  Here are some of my favorites.

Maid of Secrets Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan.  After 17 year old Meg is caught trying to rob the Queen’s advisor, she is forced to work as a member of Queen Elizabeth’s secret Maids of Honor.  The Maids are her all female bodyguard team who protect and spy for the Queen.  meg’s first assignment is to spy on a handsome young Spanish nobleman.  The first book in a series, it is full of intrigue and action.

WickedandtheJustThe Wicked and the Just by Jillian Anderson Coats.  Cecily’s father is moving her from their comfortable English manor to a small town in the wild Welsh countryside.  The story alternates points of view between Cecily and the Welsh servant girl (Gwinny) who has to serve her family.  There are hard feelings on both sides of the English-Welsh struggle.  This book is set a bit earlier than the other ones, but it still gives a good feel for medieval times.


DarkFire  Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom.  This series of historical mysteries features Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer in the time of Henry VIII.  he longs for a nice quiet life, but his sharp mind draws the attention of men like Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer.  These men force Shardlake to help them in their political dealings.  This series is a great introduction to the time of Henry VIII and Elizabethian England.

Pittsburgh: haunted by historical photographs and documentary poetry!!

Have you ever taken a walk down a Pittsburgh street and wondered what wonderful or terrible things may have happened there in years past?  There’s a way to maybe find out.

crazy clown time

Go to Retrographer to see the past overlaid upon the present.  There, over 5,000 historic images of Pittsburgh have been tagged to the locations at which they were taken.  You can see that in 1935, there was a particularly scary Halloween Party  happening in front of the fountain at the Frick Fine Arts building (read: clowns) and that trolley car tracks used to criss-cross Centre Street.  You can check out how bustling East Liberty looked in 1928, and a road crew working in Homewood, around 1910, looking towards some very familiar rowhouses on Hamilton Ave. that I drive past almost every day of my life.

Or maybe you’d like to take a walk and read poems about the streets on which you’re wandering?  Then get yourself over to Public Record, a project done in 2010-11 by Justin Hopper in connection with Encyclopedia Destructica and Deeplocal.

Hopper uses poetry to expose history.  You can download an iPhone app that will show you a map of Pittsburgh and the locations that correspond to the poems, written about what daily life was like in 19th century Pittsburgh.  Or you can download the MP3s for free.

I hope these sites will inspire you to go create your own Pittsburgh-centered creative works.  Find some history there, at the library, or the Heinz History Center Archives, and make it your own. Submit it to the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest. Record it in words, film or music at the Labs.   Find the cutest historical boy from Historic Pittsburgh and send the link to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend.

Happy exploring,

-Tessa, CLP-East Liberty

Staring at people through history. It’s not rude if they can’t see you.

One of my favorite tumblrs (apart from the CLP Teens – Main tumblr, ahem) is Of Another Fashion. Its subtitle is: An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color. Not only is it cool that a tumblr has a subtitle, it is also very cool that these photographs, stories, and articles are being collected and digitized to reach our eyes and brains.  It’s an offshoot of a project of Minh-Ha T. Pham, who also writes at the blog Threadbared, which talks about the politics (among other things) behind the common representations of fashion and beauty.

It’s always exciting to me to see the stories and, if possible, pictures of people who wouldn’t always get a chance to surface in the public after their personal history is over. In some cases these are people who should be mentioned in history books, and in some cases they’re just normal ladies like you and me, living their lives and having their own style.  I love those glimpses into other people’s lives. (I also check out how people have decorated their houses if their windows are illuminated at night. I’m nebby.)

For example, here’s one of the amazing librarian photos from Of Another Fashion (used via a Creative Commons License):

“Lucille Baldwin Brown was the first Black public county librarian in Tallahassee, Florida. This photograph is part of the collection at the State Library and Archives of Florida.”

It’s so easy to get lost in digital archives, like Historic Pittsburgh, the NYPL Digital Gallery and so many more. It’s really the best form of time travel I know.  All the better that tumblrs like Of Another Fashion are giving us better, fuller ways to see history and the people’s lives that may not have been documented and celebrated so publicly before.

Don’t forget about the library’s collection of books of portrait photography.

– Tessa, CLP- East Liberty

Assassin’s Creed!!! 3!!!

I have a confession to make. I am a video game addict. I actually had to disconnect my Playstation because I was staying up til 3 or 4 in the morning playing Madden. It’s been over 5 years since I touched a video game system, but I think my streak will end in one week when Assassin’s Creed 3 is released.  I feel like this game was created just for me as it combines some of my favorite interests: early American history and first-person shooters.

I bet you didn’t even know that you can use your library card to get video games! The library has hundreds of video games available. Some of my favorites are Medal of Honor Airborne, Madden NFL ’12, and NHL ’12.

The historical setting of Assassin’s Creed 3 has always been one of my favorite topics to read about, too, so that makes it especially exciting for me. The revolutionary war period was turbulent, violent, and a lot of it happened right around Pittsburgh. There are a lot of great books about this era; some of my favorites are: Wilderness Empire by Allan Eckert, Patriots: the Men Who Started the American Revolution by AJ Langguth, and  1776 by David McCullough.

We are also lucky to have the Fort Pitt Museum right here in Pittsburgh!  This is a great spot where you can learn about the French and Indian War and other aspects of colonial history.

– Jim, CLP-Sheraden

National Day of Service and Remembrance

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist attacks against the United States.  2,977 people were killed that day in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA.  There have been some great books written about that day and the events that led to it.  Among the best of these are:

 The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright- A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking
look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on             America.  The Looming Tower achieves an unprecedented level of intimacy and insight by telling the story through the  interweaving lives of four men: the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri; the FBI’s counterterrorism chief, John O’Neill; and the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001.


   102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn- Drawing on hundreds of interviews with rescuers and survivors, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts, New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn tell the story of September 11 from the inside looking out, weaving together the stories of ordinary men and women into an epic account of struggle, determination, and grace.  Dwyer and Flynn reveal the decisions, both good and bad, that proved to be the difference between life and death on a day that changed America forever.


   Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll- From the managing editor of the Washington Post , a news-breaking account of the CIA’s involvement in the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and gave rise to bin Laden’s al Qaeda.  Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA’s role in Afghanistan, from its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, to the rise of the Taliban and the emergence of bin Laden, to the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998.   Ghost Wars answers the questions so many have asked since the horrors of September 11: To what extent did America’s best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail?

Today has also been declared a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  You can find some great opportunities for volunteer service here.  You can also volunteer your time at your local CLP branch library.  If you are up for a drive, you can visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, which is about an hour away from Pittsburgh.

Juneteenth: a celebration of freedom

Today, June 19th is the holiday of Juneteenth.  It is also known as Freedom Day or Emanicpation Day.  You might have heard that US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has called for the day to be named a national holiday.  For those who haven’t heard of it, the holiday was first celebrated in 1865 in the city of Galveston, Texas.  The Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves had been issued in 1862 and went into effect on January 1, 1865.  But the southern Confederates who controlled most the areas where slaves lived did not follow the Proclamation.  So the slaves were technically free, but their lives did not change.  In Galveston, this changed when Union General Gordon Granger took control of the city and the slaves were finally awarded their freedom on June 18, 1865.  The next day the freed slaves celebrated their emancipation with parties and jubilation.  From that day, June 19th became the basis for the celebration of Juneteenth.

The library has some great resources to learn more about the Civil War and slavery.  One of my favorites is Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary.

The Civil War directed by Ken Burns – Ken Burns’s Emmy Award-winning documentary brings to life America’s most destructive and defining conflict. The Civil War is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one.

POW: Natasha Trethewey is poet laureate!

Image credit: Associated Press

What’s the Poet Laureate?

“The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress serves as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” – loc.gov

How much does he or she make per year?


What does the position entail?

Each Poet Laureate makes the position their own, according to their particular interests–as long as they’re promoting poetry, it’s cool.

What other people have had the position?

See the list here.

What’s good to know about Natasha Trethewey?

She’s one of the younger people to be appointed Laureate. She grew up in Mississippi in a bi-racial family and much of that experience, along with a fascination with history, informs her poetry.  Her New York Times profile notes that she is “the first Southerner to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren, the original laureate, and the first African-American since Rita Dove in 1993. ”  Check out “Flounder” at the Poetry Foundation site to get a taste of what she writes. On the surface, it’s the story of a girl fishing with her grandmother, and just below the surface, a reflection on one family’s attitudes to daily navigation between the worlds of black and white.  It’s filled with vivid images and a rhyme scheme that sneaks up on you:

“Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down

around each bony ankle,
and I rolled down my white knee socks
letting my thin legs dangle,
circling them just above water
and silver backs of minnows
flitting here then there between
the sun spots and the shadows.”

flounder photo by TenSafeFrogs on flickr

Where can I read more about Natasha Trethewey?

The Library of Congress has an online web guide here, with a very complete bibliography.

And our own library system has books for you to check out:

Bellocq’s Ophelia

Domestic Work

Native Guard

Is there a Pennsylvania Poet Laureate?

There was–from 1993-2003, Samuel Hazo was the Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania, until he was told that Pennsylvania did not need that position anymore.

Which means you could crown yourself Pennsylvania’s Poet Laureate today!  Or compete in the Young Steel Poetry Slam for similar glory.

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

Staked Vampire Skeletons Found!

Team Jacob; fall back.  Here comes a whole lotta vampire awesomeness…

Archaeologists in the Black Sea town of Sozopol recently exhumed two 700 year old skeletons, each bearing an iron stake driven completely through its chest and into the ground.  According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the Bulgarian National Museum of History,  this pinning of corpses was a common practice of superstitious villages throughout the region, occurring even as recently as the early 20th century.  Upon death, people outside of the common village lifestyle (loners and drifters, as well as questionable characters like alcoholics and criminals) were largely subject to the collective suspicion of their peers.  If deemed threatening, the heart would be staked to the ground to prevent the deceased from rising from the grave and feasting on the blood of the living.  Sometimes, heavy stones were also used to impede the suspected vampire’s presumed, nocturnal return.

Photograph: National History Museum of Bulgaria

From Vlad Dracula and Elizabeth Báthory to the nearly 100 discovered vampire burial sites in Bulgaria alone, it’s safe to say that undead bloodsuckers play a prominent role in the regional history and folklore of Eastern Europe.

So, are the bones above those of actual vampires?  Who’s to say?  Are there actual vampires?  Are you one of them?  So many questions, so few answers…

A few super cool vampire books (just because):


Jon : CLP Carrick

POW: Ardency, A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels by Kevin Young

Kevin Young was a player for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1992-2003, but there’s another Kevin Young you might want to get to know. He’s a poet from Nebraska and his poetry has been called “compulsively readable” by the New York Times Book Review. He writes about subjects and figures from American history, ranging from the Civil War to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

I’d have to agree.  Although he’s most famous for his National Book Award-nominated collection of poems about jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton (called Jelly Roll), I’ve only read his most recent book, Ardency: A chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, published last year. I’d heard about it through the Adult Books 4 Teens blog from School Library Journal online, and felt like it was time to read some more poetry.



Ardency is an interpretation of a real event:

“In the summer of 1839, fifty-three Africans illegally sold in Havana mutinied on the schooner Amistad while being taken to Puerto Principe. The rebels, mostly men from the Mendi people of Sierra Leon, killed the captain and the cook but spared their masters to help steer toward the rising sun and Africa. For nearly two months, the would-be slaveowners rerouted by night until a navy brig captured the ship. …Authorities quickly threw the Africans in Connectiut jails while deciding either to return the men to their Spanish masters or award them as ‘salvage’ to the U.S. sailors.” (from the Preface)

Young takes on the voices of the Africans and imagines their thoughts, anger, and desire in four different sections. He starts with traditional poems, moves on to an imagined journal,  then swerves into a libretto encompassing the whole group of Africans on Amistad, then ends with seven different monologues from a deathbed confession to a progress report, to a captain’s log.  His language is lyrical and nimbly changes to fit the section and the speaker.

The poems in here cut to the heart of history and give you the immediacy of a primary source document with imagination and detail to take you even further into what it could have been like, as in the opening of “Broadway”:

At Broadway Tabernacle the abolitionists charge

half-dollar a head to view your Mendi zoo.

After the slideshow of Sierra Leone, they hold

spelling bees to show how far you’ve come.

I wish for a word I could become. If just one letter

would shift, worship turning warship . . . But little

Kale spells it right: —Bless-ed are the pure at heart.


The best part about the variety of Ardency is that you can pick a section and start there without reading the others, depending on your mood.


More information on Kevin Young can be found at poets.org and The Poetry Foundation.


Happy poetry reading!

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

%d bloggers like this: