Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Libraries

Libraries were a place of dread going up. I didn’t come from a family of readers, we watched TV. When I was young my future sister-in-law came into the picture and would say “Don’t you want to read a good book?” I’d laugh and reply “Why, when I have cable with a gajillion channels?”.

Doug Kids Homebrewing
Quality time reading with the kids

Reading seemed like a chore to me because I did a ton of it in catholic school so why would I want to do it in my spare time? The problem was I didn’t have anyone saying “Hey there’s something cool to discover.”

Erie then built, at the time, the state-of-the-art Blasco Library. I was getting into computers and picked up loads of programming books. I would spend time in the computer center working on code and sending emails because I didn’t have a machine of my own.

When I moved to Pittsburgh I had my own computer and only used the Hillman for hoarding blazing net speeds. Years would pass before I stepped back into a library and, thanks to my kids, I’ve rediscovered how great we have it in Pittsburgh!

Carnegie Library (Oakland)
My wife has always been a big reader and when she was the one staying home, would take the kids to the library constantly. When it was my turn, the kids would tell me how much fun it really was. At the urging of my wife we went as a family and it changed me forever. I fell in love with the library.

The kids section of this library is exceptional. Bright colors, computer stations, play area, and of course books galore. I figured it would be chaos with kids running around but  the children are mindful of their surroundings and there are designated reading areas for the kids to chill with a book. The librarians are polite and understanding to the children and as a parent, felt very comfortable. They have programs for reading time and other creative development which is a perk to your free membership.

Return Of Marriage
Doc found at Carnegie Library for my great-grandparents

My favorite section is the genealogy department on the 3rd floor. I was intimidated at first because as someone getting into research, I walked into a huge room feeling overwhelmed with no idea where to start. The staff is unbelievable with helping and explaining how everything works and where to look for information. Without them I wouldn’t have made so many advances on my family tree. I am absolutely addicted to spending time there and discovering more about this city I now call home.

They also have access to world records. While you can’t save to your account, you can write down the info you need. Accessing local records via microfilm is a snap and you can make copies for $.10 each. Bring some dimes.

What surprised me most was the amount of programs the library offers so check out the website for a listing of current events. I know there are others like me who were “eh, its just a place of books. boring. whatever.” but you can see that, unlike other industries, they’re evolving and embracing technology instead of fighting it.

Easter Bunny at Greentree Library
Easter Bunny at Greentree Library

Greentree Library
Being home with the boys all day I’m always looking for something to do with them and Ms. Shannon at Greentree is without a doubt the best librarian in Pittsburgh. Her reading time with the kids is very hands on and my boys rave about it all the time. During the holidays she brings in Mrs. Claus to read to the kids, there are Easter egg hunts and other holiday themed events. As a parent the kids thirst for learning makes me proud.

Following the reading adventures, kids are invited to play in the community gym (when available) which is located in the same building.

Hanging out in the kids section
Hanging out in the kids section

Mt. Lebanon Library
I’m a South Hills guy now so this is my go-to library. I use the Dormont library quite a bit also but this is the one I call home. The kids section is HUGE and complete with computer center, creative play area, hearty supply of DVDs/video games to rent and access to the outdoor reading garden.  They’ve also embraced digital audio books, have a very easy book check in/out system and have events such as a chili tasting and beer sampling. Mt.Lebo does a great job making it a community gathering spot.

Pittsburgh has an incredible library system that I would have never discovered without the quality programs offered to bring my kids in.

Pittsburgh libraries aren’t the dull, out-of-date, old lady behind the desk yelling at you for breathing too loud experience many of us grew up with. They’re relaxing, fun, educational and make you want to visit.

Genealogy research and historical societies seem to have a reputation as being for the older generations. If there is anyone interested in making it appeal to all generations, maybe we can do something about it.

Obviously this is a short list of the places I go. What is your favorite library and why?

This is the 2nd in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.