Monthly Archives: June 2010

Check Out: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Part I…?)

This edition of Check Out features a library on the opposite end of the modernity spectrum from the Seattle Central Library. Behold: the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (main branch in Oakland).

Try to stay awake during this bit of history: In 1890, Andrew Carnegie offered the city of Pittsburgh $1 million to build a library. Let your brain gnaw on that for a second…a million dollars in 1890. That’s a lot of money. Five years later, he dedicated this branch. But Andrew Carnegie didn’t stop there. He funded the construction of many libraries across the United States. So, when someone says, “that’s a Carnegie library,” they’re talking about a library for which Carnegie provided the money to build. He had nothing to do with the actual operations of the libraries…he just believed that Americans should have access to them. Pretty nice!

Back to the CLP. The first floor has a Crazy Mocha cafe, a kid’s reading room, and new books. You can take an elevator to the upper floors, or walk up the marble stairs that have warped with age. Your food and drinks have to stay on the first floor, sadly. My memory is a little hazy, but I think I only explored the second floor and the mezzanine after the first floor. The portion of the second floor that I saw has a reference area, a career center, some cool old tables, if you’re into that. If you can find your way to the mezzanine, you’ll find even more nonfiction crammed onto shelves, between which you might need to walk sideways.

Like I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time here in March while working on a project for my reference class. Now that I’m writing up this post, I’m realizing that I have a lot more left to explore. Hopefully I’ll go out there again and write up a Part II for this post.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Sunday Metadata [updated]

  • Last night, a classmate told me about Goodreads. It’s a way for you to keep track of and rate your books, and find other people with similar tastes. I signed up to keep track of the books I have read and want to read this year (I’m hoping to make it to 52 books).
  • Today is the last day for MotherReader’s 5th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. It primarily focuses on YA and children’s book bloggers. Check out the Finish Line post for a list of participants – you can read their reviews and see the progress they made over the weekend.
  • I read the LA Times Magazine for the first time yesterday, never having given it a fair chance (it seemed a little too LA for me, if you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I mean, I mean it looks ridiculous). I was actually quite surprised, in a good way, with their recurring books piece, Lonely Hearts Book Club. The authors, Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, offer book suggestions to readers who write in with a literary predicament. For instance, this week’s issue featured short stories for a woman who needed to read in order to distract her from calling up her ex boyfriend. Today, I noticed someone placed a hold in our library for Jay McInerney’s How It Ended – one of the collections of short stories that Mack and Kaufman suggested in this issue. I’m going to ignore the possibility that it was a coincidence. I love it when I see little connections like that.

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White

I was a little hesitant to review this book because it hit really close to home for me. I was worried about how reviewing this book would reveal a problem I’ve dealt with since I was a little girl. But then I remembered that a) this isn’t about me and b) Emily White would disapprove of my hiding this information. So here we go:

This book is about chronic loneliness, and Emily White’s lifelong experience with it. Despite the connotations associated with the word “lonely,” it isn’t a silly affliction. She makes several points clear: chronic loneliness is not depression. It’s not a side-effect of depression, either (in fact, it’s often the other way around). It’s not the type of loneliness one feels while one’s husband or wife is on a business trip, or when one is spending a solitary Sunday evening away from friends and family in a strange place. Chronic loneliness can be genetic, or it can be triggered by life’s circumstances (for instance, mine is a result of both genetics and moving every few years as a kid; for others, it can be triggered by divorce, deaths, etc.). Chronic loneliness has negative effects on both our physical and mental health. It’s surprisingly common, so why doesn’t anybody talk about it? White argues that the stigma attached to loneliness causes people to hide it, which in turn leads to less treatment for it.

This is not a self-help book. It’s more of a call to action. This means that even if you don’t think you suffer from chronic loneliness, it is definitely worth reading if only to see its role within Western society. It doesn’t read like an academic paper, yet I couldn’t get over how clearly she organized and presented her information. However, like I said before, this isn’t a self-help book, so don’t expect concrete solutions. White actually addressed this in her blog:

A reader of Lonely once flamed me (is that what the cool kids say?) for writing a book about loneliness and still being lonely. He wanted, I guess, to hear about loneliness from someone who had totally mastered the state. I think there are some strategies you can bring to bear on loneliness (I’m going to post a lecture by a British researcher on this topic soon), but I’ll say in advance to anyone interested in Lonely that loneliness is still a problem in my life.

For those who do suffer from chronic loneliness and want to read this book, don’t let that discourage you. Insight from White and others who are lonely is plentiful, and just knowing that there are people out there with similar experiences can be very therapeutic.

You can check out White’s blog here.

The next book I read and review will be about a much lighter topic, I promise!