In our increasingly digital world, you might not expect 26-year-old Madeleine Campbell to have strong feelings about her local library. But like many who attended a town hall gathering at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Main Library in Oakland on January 18, she sees the library as a vital and evolving resource.
“The library is one of the only places that is actually free to the people,” says Campbell, of Polish Hill. “It’s among the few remaining public spaces that doesn’t require you to spend a dime.”
She was glad to see that nearly 100 other people, including Mayor Bill Peduto, came to the town hall event to discuss the future of the library and its role in an ever-evolving Pittsburgh. “The crowd was particularly diverse in age,” she says. “I sat among a row of five teenage boys and a senior woman, which reinforces to me the library is here for everyone.”
To facilitate discussion, event attendees split into breakout groups and were asked to pinpoint the positive experiences they’d had as customers. They were then asked to jot down what CLP Main is doing well, what resources they’re already using and where they see room for improvement. What issues came up?
Reimagining the library as a space for civic engagement and self-guided learning was the main priority. For instance, workforce development services may shift from skill-building classes during times of high unemployment to providing ways for users to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s thriving innovation economy.
As part of its 2018-2020 strategic plan, the library is partnering with brightspot, a New York City-based consulting firm that has worked with cultural and educational institutions including the New York Public Library, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.