At the hundred year old Carnegie Library of Lawrenceville, about to stand on the stone steps in the searing 95 degree heat and deliver the following speech as part of an event kicking off a voter initiative to raise funds to keep the library going…
My husband moved to Lawrenceville after college because he had the blues. A guitar player from California, he’d attended shows at the Thunderbird and was drawn to the rough at the edges, smoky, bluesy urban scene that Pittsburgh, and specifically Lawrenceville, offered. I fell in love with him and left the deep blue ridges of North Carolina to join him. One of his first and most powerful persuasions to entice me to move was a trip through the Carnegie Main Library in the middle of the winter. He watched my eyes widen in wonder in the stacks and laughed.
Our first year as newlyweds was spent in classic poverty, living on love and little else. His meagre schoolteacher’s paycheck (a career in blues having been set aside) was barely enough to pay the rent for our dingy loft above a bar with a thumping bass. We couldn’t even afford to pay for the internet. Meanwhile I was struggling to adjust to a new city, married life, and the new baby on the way at the end of the year.
There were so many things that drew me to the Carnegie Library branch up the street. As a voracious reader, I needed constant piles of books to get through that year. The amazingly free internet access allowed me to pour out my thoughts to friends across the country, work on developing my career as a musician and dancer in Pittsburgh, learn about my new community, and research important information on a daily basis. The staff was gracious, friendly, and welcoming. Finally the building itself is an architectural gem and a delight to spend time in- high ceilings, marble floors, elegant scrollwork, hissing radiators billowing heat in the winter and fans creating cool breezes in the hot summer.
As the due date for our daughter drew closer, we spent a great deal of time deciding where to settle. We discovered that not only did Lawrenceville have a great music scene, it was full of young families, parks, a farmer’s market, a local church, and groceries within walking distance. Finally, and crucially, it had this amazing library complete with huge beautiful children’s room. The threatened closure of the library almost caused us to settle in another neighborhood. I couldn’t imagine having a baby in the city without having a library within walking distance.
The library is open, and we are here almost every day that the library is open. My daughter, at 14 months, is pretty sure she is an employee. I check out books, order them from other branches, buy them from the sale rack, use the internet, take home dvds. My husband uses movies from the library in his teaching work and has worked his way through almost the entire Carnegie selection of martial arts books. Our baby attends storytime, baby yoga, and beams upon sight of the librarians, who take the time to walk with her hand in hand as they sort and stack the books. The library has helped me to settle into this city and into my life as a harpist, dancer, wife, and mother here. I cannot imagine our life in this city without this library- and I hope I won’t have to in the future.