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  • July 2020
    M T W T F S S

Tropical Imagination

Earlier this week, I was certain that the media was making up this whole polar vortex thing for ratings. Turns out, a polar vortex is a real weather pattern and the term has been around since 1853!

polar vortex

Polar Vortex as seen on http://earth.nullschool.net/

Schools closed. Water pipes burst. Historically low temperatures were recorded. Here in Pittsburgh, the temperature dropped to a record low of minus 9 degrees! Have you seen the panorama of the frozen city?


Frozen Allegheny River on January 7th. Source: Justin Merriman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For those of us who aren’t fond of winter storms and cold snaps, there is some hope! With the winter solstice behind us, there is a bit more sunlight each day. And the first day of spring will be here soon too.

Until then, here is a list of novels full of warm destinations (some good, others not so good) to keep your imagination warm!

the summer i turned pretty

beauty queens

along for the ride



one crazy summer

– Michael @ Hazelwood

Solar S’mores & Pedal Power

Before I got a drivers license, I spent my summers cruising around town on a bike.  It was a gray 10-speed splattered with pink and turquoise paint and I thought it was the coolest.  I loved to speed down the hill next to my house, feet off the pedals, until the day I wiped out on a patch of cinders.  The cinders were dropped by snowplows during winter storms and the street cleaner never seemed able to sweep them all away.  After that, I always kept my feet on the pedals and looked for cinders.  I pedaled to the town pool, the local library, and my friends’ houses.  My friends and I built bonfires in their fields, crafted massive s’mores and ate logs of cookie dough, and stayed up until the stars began to fade.  We’d wake up in dew-covered tents with the smoky scent of campfire still clinging to our hair.

When I moved to Pittsburgh s’mores and bike rides became a thing of the past, as I was nervous about riding on the city’s busy, pockmarked streets and starting a campfire seemed like an easy way to burn down the entire neighborhood.

While I’ve become comfortable riding my bike in the city, thanks to tips from friends and Bike Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh Bike Map, there still aren’t many s’mores in my life.

Bike Pittsburgh’s Bike Map

That will change this Saturday (8/17) at 3pm during Outside the Lines: STEM + Art.  Abby will teach us how to make solar ovens which we’ll use to make s’mores!  No campfire or BBQ needed, just the power of the sun!  Let Abby know if you’re planning to join her for this awesome experiment.

solar oven

Solar Oven!

Ride your bike to the Library this week (we have bike racks in front and in the parking garage!) and make solar s’mores with us!

Here are some of my favorite bike-themed books and movies and, of course, a book about s’mores!



Summertime is Funtime

kennywood sign

It’s August in Pittsburgh.  It’s hot and its hazy and that can only mean one thing!  ITS KENNYWOOD SEASON.

When I was a kid in Michigan we didn’t have anything so cool as an amusement park right in our own town.  And Kennywood isn’t just awesome for the Black Widow, Thunderbolt or Potato Patch Fries, its also cool for its amazing history.

pavillionBefore 1898 the spot where Kennywood now stands was a sleepy wooded area on Anthony Kenny’s farm.  Even before that, the area was the site of an important battle of the French and Indian War.  Around 1898 the Monongahela Street Railways Company owned by CMU donor, banker and Great Depression lightning rod Andrew Mellon took the area from a quiet grove to an amusement attraction with a casino, carousel and dance pavillion.  Mellon figured if he made a fun destination folks would flock to it, oh and they’d use his streetcar to get there.  Since then fun has been the name of the game at Kennywood.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/ kennywood sign http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambergris/ goodbye tunnel http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcwriterdawn/ Racer http://www.flickr.com/photos/bettytsang/ Thunderbolt http://www.flickr.com/photos/jab2980/ Carousel http://www.flickr.com/photos/neuski/ potato patch fries http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanbui/ landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/ Fresh Sqeezed lemonade, auto race,Historical landmark sign and sky rocket

For over a hundred years Kennywood has showing Pittsburgher’s a good time.  Just about everyone has a made a great memory there, whether you had a secret kiss on the Old Mill, won a great prize, or took a school trip with all your friends.  Kennywood’s so famous its one of only two amusement parts that have historical landmark status.

If you can’t make it to Kennywood this weekend the library has tons of stuff to get you in the mood to make a trip soon!

kennywood bookcoverroller coaster capitalmemories

~Brooke-South Sidegoodbye tunnel

End of Summer Adventures

Road trips, bike trips, end of summer adventures!

Trailpicture is my own

August is just around the corner, and I love August!  It’s often a bittersweet month—it’s still the middle of summer, fresh produce is exploding, there’s still time for swimming, bug bites, and fun in the sun.  But it’s often the month before or when school starts, the days are getting shorter, and some day soon, fall will feel just around the corner.Bike

picture is my own

Enough of that sentimentality.  It’s still only the end of July and we all have more than enough time for another great summer adventure.  I recently completed the bike trip from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail.  Let me just say, it was an incredible trip.  If this is your speed, I highly recommend it.  If you’re looking for a different sort of adventure, check out one of these books!  All about adventure of one kind or another—from world traveling, to road tripping, to learning about yourself.


Saving June

13 Little Blue EnvelopesAmy and Eric's Depic Detour

Take Me There

Summer Jams

There is no debating about which song ruled the airwaves of summer 2012.  I think we’re all still trying to recover from that one.  But have we collectively decided what this summer’s omnipresent jam is yet?  I have a solid guess myself, but it seems like the summer has just gotten underway and the title is still anyone’s for the taking.

Thinking about what the unofficial song of the summer of 2013 will be has got me waxing nostalgic.  I started reminiscing about the summer between my junior and senior year of high school and the band, hit song, and album that completely took over my life.  On the night of the last day of school, my friends and I went to an to see a fairly well known band from England.  But it was that night’s opening band playing to a near empty room that stole my heart.  I just had to meet them.  My friends and I wormed our way backstage and buddied up to our new favorite band.  We even ended up in their van at the end of the night driving to their hotel room to hang out until dawn.  I recognize that this sounds very, very stupid and WAY worse than it actually was.  But honestly, it was all very innocent.  We spent the rest of the summer and fall writing letters back and forth with band members (this was before the internet and email was totally ubiquitous) and sneaking into clubs meeting up with them whenever they came touring our way, which was actually fairly often.  But soon, the band got big- like REALLY BIG – and our little friendship couldn’t survive their new-found, massive fame.  Even though I quickly outgrew their music, when I hear those first singles from their first album it takes me right back to a time I remember fondly.  I really felt like I was on the verge of adulthood and my life was shaping up to be very exciting.  I will never tell you which band it was because it really is just way too embarrassing to share, but you guys are all welcome to speculate!

I asked my fellow Teen Specialists to share their favorite (or most memorable) summer jams and below are the results:

Annica from West End:  Listen to this song and you’ll know how my 16th summer went.  Memories come flooding back and give me chills every time I hear it.

Micheal from Hazelwood:  In the summer of ’99 there was one song that was impossible to escape!  I give you, Len’s one hit wonder “Steal My Sunshine”!

Lauren from Woods Run:  It was the summer of 1996 and I was working at Kennywood Park.  My food stand was close to the Musik Express and “1979” was in such heavy rotation that I swear it played every 15 minutes.  Just like the staff in “Adventureland”, we got very sick of that song by the end of the summer!  When I hear it now, I think back to all the fun I had working at an amusement park.

Molly from The Labs:  When of Montreal’s The Sunlandic Twins came out in the spring of my junior year, it changed my (music) life.  Although I still listen to the album year-round, “Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)” has always felt particularly summery to me, with its heartbeat-like intro (reminding me what it’s like to be able to run outside again), whimsical lyrics about escaping through imagination, and a fast, danceable tempo.  It’s definitely on my list of songs to put on while driving in the sunshine with the windows down.

Tessa from East Liberty:  “It Must Be Summer” by Fountains of Wayne is perfect for driving to the mall with your windows open, or driving to Sheetz so you can buy food and hang out in the parking lot of the Sheraton (these were summer activities in my hometown).  Fountains of Wayne are the masters of the happy but yearning pop song.

Another from Tessa from East Liberty:  And if you’re just sitting on your porch wishing you had air conditioning I recommend “How Many Cans” by Soul Coughing- it has a slow, fat bass line that is probably just the right groove for the sweat you hate to feel dripping down your back.

So, what do yinz think will be the song of summer 2013?

Want to play this summer’s hit songs on the ukulele?  Join us on Tuesday, July 23 from 2 pm to 3:30 pm in the CLP – Main Teen Meeting Room for Ukulele Mayhem.  We’ll be learn a few simple chords and pop songs and record our epic, ukulele jam session for all of posterity!  Bring your own ukulele or play one of ours.  All skill levels are welcome.  Participation in this program is limited to teens.

Summer Movie Time

Truth be told, there is no denying summer break is slipping away. Some mean-spirited, ruthless people would even say it’s more than half over!

Ron Weasley isn’t so happy! via http://cmyk-giffed.tumblr.com/

Even though the minutes of summer are ticking away, there are still a million things to enjoy before heading back to school. And if you count the summer solstice as the start of summer – we have really just gotten started!

Elaine on Seinfeld via http://cmyk-giffed.tumblr.com/

Movies, movies, and more movies. Summer is the best time to catch up on movies you may have missed!

If you can manage to find a Citiparks book, check out the hundreds of free (or nearly free things to do)! My personal favorite is Cinema in the Park!

Cinema in the Park - Grandview

Cinema in the Park – Grandview

Each week, FREE new release movies are premiered at many parks throughout the city. Check out the calendar. You can still see a few blockbusters before the summer is out like The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyThe Hunger Games, and Jack the Giant Slayer.

Can’t make it to Cinema in the Park? Check out Teen Movie Night at CLP-Beechview! Or movies in the afternoon on Saturdays at Woods Run and Allegheny!

If you love strange, campy oddball flicks stop at Main Teen to enjoy the delights of Bad Movie Fridays!

C-3PO via cmyk-giffed.tumblr.com

Movie aren’t your thing? No worries! Escape the heat at the library with gaming and more. There is gaming nearly all day, every day @ Main Teen! Top off your week with Teen Gaming & Button Fridays at the West End if you want to make some of these!

K-Stew freaking out! via tumblr.com

Michael, CLP Hazelwood

Throwback Summer Cinema

Summer makes a perfect backdrop for all kinds of stories. The months from June to September seem to stretch out in an arc of possibilities, waiting to be filled with epic adventures, romances, and mysteries, while long days and warm nights conjure memories of summers past. Maybe this sense of promise and nostalgia explains the summertime settings for so many coming-of-age stories – the tales that chronicle a character’s shift from innocence to experience, marking the end of childhood and the beginning of something new. In honor of the longest day of the year, check out some classic movies featuring summer-themed stories of friendships, crushes, quests, and plenty of teenage angst.


“Everybody gets one chance to do something great. Most people never take the chance, either because they’re too scared, or they don’t recognize it when it spits on their shoes.”

The Sandlot (1993)

The Sandlot is the story of a group of kids who spend the sweltering summer of 1962 playing ball in a dusty field, hunting down lost (& possibly priceless) baseballs, getting life advice from the ghost of Babe Ruth, and avoiding run-ins with the dreaded man-eating monster dog chained up in the yard next door. The Sandlot was an instant classic when it premiered 20 years ago– perfect inspiration for neighborhood adventures with friends.

“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959– a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years.”

Stand By Me (1986)

Based on a novella by Stephen King, Stand By Me follows a group of friends as they set out to become heroes by finding the body of a local boy who has gone missing. They pack their bags, fill their canteens, and embark on their journey through the woods outside of town, dodging trains and wading through leech-infested creeks along the way. In addition to its compelling storyline, Stand By Me also features an all-star 80’s cast and an awesome oldies soundtrack– a must-see summer flick.


“Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop. But that’s no reason to shut out the world. There’s a purpose for the good and the bad.”

Now and Then (1995)

Now and Then is another nostalgia-driven story about four friends who spend the summer of 1970 saving money for a tree house, navigating love-hate relationships with the neighborhood boys, and solving the mystery of a local murder that happened before any of them were born. A 90’s classic that will make you want to ride your bike and research cold cases by combing through old newspapers in the basement of your local public library.

Check out more summer-themed cinema available at CLP:

  super8   moonrise  adventureland

Summer time is travelling time!

Summer time is almost here!  It has been a long, long, long winter, but we finally have some nice weather and (hopefully) some time off to enjoy it!  Whether it is summer vacation for teens or a few days off for librarians, I think everyone is looking forward to this summer.

One of the best things about summer is the chance to get away for a few days or even longer if you are lucky.  I always like to travel to Moraine State Park and enjoy the beach and a picnic.  It’s one of my favorite places to go.  Another place I love to visit is Cook Forest, where you can go hiking, rent a cabin, and go canoeing or fishing.

If you can’t get away or can’t get away anyplace far, you can always escape somewhere through a good book.  Some of my favorite books explore travelling and visiting new places.  These are a great way to travel to new places without leaving your house or spending a cent!

13 Little Blue Envelopes 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson is one of my favorite books despite the super girly looking cover!  It is about a 17 year old girl named Ginny whose free spirited artist aunt Peg passes away and leaves her an unusual gift of a plane ticket to London and 13 blue envelopes with different clues in them.  Each envelope can only be opened when Ginny reaches a new destination in Europe.  Ginny gets to visit lots of cool places all over Europe and she meets lots of interesting people.  This is a great book for anyone who has ever wanted to visit some of the fascinating locations of Europe!

NameoftheStar The Name of the Star is another book by Maureen Johnson (who you might be able to tell is one of my favorite writers).  This one is also about travel, but it is a lot different than 13 Little Blue Envelopes.  In this book, Rory Devereaux moves to London with her parents and has to attend an English boarding school that is totally different than her regular American high school.  The first part of the book is all about the difficulties Rory has while trying to fit in and adapting to living in England.  She has to learn how to play field hockey, eat new foods, and deal with the cold and damp weather.  But then just as she’s getting used to everything, she becomes the target of a serial killer who is re-enacting the Jack the Ripper murders!  This is both an exciting mystery and a great travel tale about the city of London.

FaultinourStars Not primarily a travel story at all, but John Green‘s The Fault in our Stars does involve travel!  It is the story of Hazel Lancaster, a 16 year old who meets Augustus Waters at a therapy session for cancer survivors.  The two get close and fall in love as they deal with the strong emotional issues they are both dealing with.  But Augustus does arrange for Hazel to travel to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author.  It’s a great book that happens to have a bit of travel in it.

Teen Blogger: Outsmarting the College Salesmen

Hello, my name is Wei. (Before we go further, it’s important for you to know that it’s pronounced like “WAY.” I mean, how awkward would it be if you came up to me & called me “WEE”?) I’m a senior, a vegetarian, I read ALL THE TIME, I can lick my elbow, and I believe I am searching for a “Great Perhaps.”

A car salesman and a college tour guide are basically the same thing. They’re both trying to sell you something that’s ridiculously expensive. They’re going to show you the finer points of their wares while conveniently leaving what’s not so attractive by the wayside. Sometimes they’re bubbling with excitement to show you around. Sometimes they’re evasive. But they’re always trained in the art of selling. And there are always an overwhelming amount of them, each trying to sell you their car/college over the next guy’s.

Touring college campuses, like browsing car dealerships, should be done carefully. While everything should be taken in, it should also be done with a grain of salt. They’re a make-it-or-break-it type experience for a lot of people. You’re seeing where you could potentially be living the next few years of your young adult life. It’s scary, but it’s the most exciting feeling.

So, how do you cut through the half-truths and the pretty façade of these well-rehearsed salesmen to get to the heart of the matter to know what’s the best fit for you?

#1.) Visit as many campuses as you can. I have a lot of friends who have at current count, only visited one school. And then all they talk about is how much they love it and how it’s the school for them. But if you only visit one campus, how can you possibly know? It’s important to note that even if you don’t plan on going to College X, if you get a chance, visit anyway. Even if you hate it, you’ll realize what you don’t want which is at least a step better than not knowing what you want at all.

#2.) Visit with your parents. So, I know that the number one most appealing thing about getting a higher education is the fact that you can do it outside the vicinity of Mom and Dad, but seriously, think about it. It’s not just what you want, it’s what your family can afford. They should see the school that they’re sending their son/daughter to. They should see if it’s a good fit and if it’s worth the money. Plus, it’s good to get a second opinion. I mean, for the most part, they’re relatively wise. They got you this far, didn’t they?

#3.) Don’t fall for the little things. Tour guides are going to highlight the best parts such as the new renovations to the science lab, some famous band that just played on campus, the hundreds of sports and activities that they offer. That’s all great & good, but remember that every school has some award or unique feature, and all of them have clubs. Don’t fall for the little things like a Quidditch team (it’s tempting, I know); instead, look at the whole picture. What good is free Wi-fi if you’re too deep in the middle of nowhere that your phone doesn’t work? What’s the use of a new physics building if the professor still teaches like Prohibition is still a thing?

#4.) What you learn after the tour is just as useful as what you learn during it. Guides are only going to show you the best, biggest parts of campus. It might be a good idea after the tour to go walk around without a guide & try to find all the nooks and crannies and see if they have as much glimmer to them as what you saw on the tour. Also, eat in the main dining hall. Should this be the college you choose, you’ll be eating from there more often than not, so it’s good to get a sense of what kind of food you’ll be anticipating. Also, since the majority of the people there will be college kids, it’s a good idea to scope them out and try to get a feel if they’re the kind of people you want to spend the next few years with.

#5.) Make sure they know you’re coming. This should really go without saying, but schedule an appointment first. They need to know that you’re coming so that they can have a guide ready. Sometimes people will just take a look around by themselves, without the knowledge of the school. While that’s fine, it’s not really the most efficient way. Colleges keep records of all the students who visit them. When applying, if they see that you visited or met with an admissions counselor or in some way showed your interest in their school, they’ll know that you’re serious about wanting to attend. Basically, it will look better on your application.

If the last one went without saying, then this next one should go so much without saying that I’m not even going to list it as a tip: ASK QUESTIONS. Believe me, whatever it is, do not feel stupid. They have had sillier questions. Trust me.

I know it’s frightening, to do all these thing for your future when you’re not even sure what the future looks like. But it’s worth it.

End of Summer- BOO! End of Summer Party- YAY!

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t stand those back-to-school advertising campaigns that seem to kick in while summer is still in full swing.  And how about the stores that start selling fall jackets when it is still 90 degrees outside?  For me personally, the count down to the new school year was such a drag that even a full scale-gratuitous-shopping-binge didn’t prove therapeutic.  So now that the Teen Department at CLP Main is hosting an End of the Summer Celebration on Friday 8/24 from 2 pm to 5 pm, I feel like such a traitor.

But really- we’re on YOUR side.  We’re not trying to pour salt in the wound, we simply want to reward you all for your participation in this year’s Teen Summer Reading program (which, by the way, it’s not too late to sign up for….).  And the truth is, we’ll use any excuse to throw a party here in the Main Teen Department.  So, come- despite yourself- and just try to enjoy the last sliver of summer….

Friday, August 24

2pm to 5pm

CLP Main- Teens

4400 Forbes Ave.

Pittsburgh, PA

All teens in middle or high school welcome.  For more information, contact teensmain @ carnegielibrary.org or 412.622.3121.

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