I was lucky enough a few weeks ago while visiting friends in Pittsburgh, PA to make a quick trip to a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (the main branch in the Oakland neighborhood, also called CLP – Main).
This was seriously one of the coolest libraries I’ve ever visited. It has everything a classic library lover could dream of….beautiful architecture, a fascinating historical background, an enormous card catalog, multiple floors packed with all types of information resources, and even a coffee shop. It also has some more whimsical touches, like a view of the dinosaur exhibit in the natural history museum next door, a zine collection, and a piano in the music section that you can play while wearing headphones. It was such a joy to walk through and explore this library, and afterwards I got to learn a bit about how Carnegie libraries across the US and around the world came into existence thanks to industrialist Andrew Carnegie (check out the virtual exhibit at Digital Public Library of America in the link).
Here are just a few awesome features (and photos) from CLP – Main:
- Zine Collection(!!): I was so, so excited to see a zine collection at a major public library. I find zines (usually self-published or locally published pamphlets/magazines) to be really fascinating reads that highlight local and very niche subcultures, and I wish I had a chance to thoroughly browse this collection. I’m definitely setting aside an hour or two the next time I’m in Pittsburgh to solely dedicate to zine browsing.
- Lots and Lots of Lizards: The moment I saw the library through the windows of the dinosaur exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I knew I had to visit. While walking into the library through a side entrance, I ran into a surprising amount of lizards (both ancient and modern).
- Incredible Architecture: The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh website gives a brief history of the CLP – Main building, which was dedicated in 1895. Despite a number of renovations and improvements, the beauty of the 19th century architecture is evident throughout the building, and especially in the stairways, hallways, and reading rooms.
- A Modern Collection and Welcoming Environment: The building may have a classical beauty, but the atmosphere and collection is thoroughly modern and welcoming to all types of patrons, regardless of age, economic status, or language. I noticed a lively teen section (I think I spotted some virtual reality gear advertised) beside a hip coffee shop, a large career center with numerous computers, an extensive music section with an electric piano (with headphones, of course), and the zine collection (my obvious favorite).
- A Card Catalog, Obviously: There was one wonderfully classic library touch on the second floor – an enormous card catalog. And according to the sign, this wasn’t even the main card catalog!
I could have spent all day at CLP – Main, and next time I visit Pittsburgh, I may very well spend the whole day there (probably in the zine collection).