The Carnegie Library

The children’s department at Carnegie Library’s main branch has always been a wonderous place. This month is Library Lovers’ Month, so go check it out.



The children's room at the Carnegie Library’s main branch in the early 20th century.

Recently, for an episode of my weekly TV show, I interviewed Barbara Mistick, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (before she announced she’ll be leaving in May), and I wondered about how many firsts might be connected to our local libraries. Remember: Andrew Carnegie built his first library in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, before any of our Pittsburgh-area libraries opened their doors.

Mistick mentioned the children’s department the main branch of the library in Oakland was really important, and I thought, Hmm, could it have been the first?

If you really want to know the truth, go to the Pennsylvania department (two floors above the children’s). The librarians there are stellar, and since I called ahead with my question, they set aside several documents.

The First Annual Report for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from 1897 contains some interesting info: “We now come to a subject of greatest importance. No provision was made for a separate children’s department in the planning of our library building.” The main branch opened on Nov. 5, 1895. The report continues, “The trustees, however, early saw the need of such a department, and on Feb. 1, 1896, one of the rooms previously used for periodicals was turned into a children’s reading room … 28,823 children used this room during the first year of its existence.” Obviously, it was a big, important idea.

But other research tells me the Robbins Library in Massachusetts claims it had a free library for children in 1835.

The Pennsylvania department librarians also suggested a book from 2001 titled Tradition in Transition by Carol Bleier, who reports that a young woman from Brooklyn, N.Y., named Frances Jenkins Olcott, was hired to start the Carnegie’s children’s department, and Olcott did a bang-up job.

Bleier writes, “When Frances Jenkins Olcott started the children’s department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, there was no precedent to follow, since there was no other library in any city with an organized children’s department.”

“Organized” seems to be the crucial word.

Bleier states, “Olcott not only started the children’s department, she also created an educational system for children’s librarians at the turn of the century, modeled after Dewey’s New York State Library School. It evolved into the present School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the consistently top-ranked, largest and most-diversified schools of its kind in the United States and in the world.”

So we may not have the first, but we may have had the first really good one, carefully managed and “organized” by a caring staff of well-trained librarians. We taught the rest of the world what makes a quality children’s department.
February is Library Lovers’ Month. If you haven’t been there lately, go check something out.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

After a Stanley Cup-winning season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, one player’s wife is working on her own claim to fame.
What to Do with Unused Churches in Pittsburgh

What to Do with Unused Churches in Pittsburgh

A Pittsburgh preservation group says there are approximately 30 unused churches in Allegheny County.
How Would You Make Pittsburgh's Liberty Avenue Better?

How Would You Make Pittsburgh's Liberty Avenue Better?

This week, your suggestions could have a significant impact on one of Downtown’s busiest streets.
A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Hamilton’: Everything You Need to Know

A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Hamilton’: Everything You Need to Know

The hit musical is coming to the ‘Burgh, so what’s the big deal?
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
For Pirates' Jameson Taillon: Pressure is a Privilege

For Pirates' Jameson Taillon: Pressure is a Privilege

As Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon enters his first full season with the big leagues, the weight of anticipation has given way to a need to deliver.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

After a Stanley Cup-winning season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, one player’s wife is working on her own claim to fame.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Booze, Beer and Bars: Pittsburgh's Fascinating History of Drink

Booze, Beer and Bars: Pittsburgh's Fascinating History of Drink

Bartender Sean Enright and journalist Cody McDevitt dive into Pittsburgh's boozy history with "Pittsburgh Drinks: A History of Cocktails, Nightlife & Bartending Tradition."

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

Voodoo Brewery is an enticing alternative to the many chains in and around the Waterfront.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Even as they entertained Dont’a Hightower for nearly seven hours during a free-agent recruiting trip to the South Side, the Steelers never lost sight of who they are or what they’re all about.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

The miniature bath- and shower-oil collection from Aromatherapy Associates makes every shower a luxury experience.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

Reviews of two films appearing at the 2017 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: "I, Daniel Blake," and "The Eagle Huntress." Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

Married couples talk hashtags — and why they used them at their weddings.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

The Carnegie Museum of Art’s new exhibit features the works of architect Arthur Lubetz and Front Studio, including the vibrant Glass Lofts Building in Garfield.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

The Outdoor Recreation Club becomes the newest student organization at the college.

Comments