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My experience touring Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

Before concluding her semester at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh this spring, our Communications and Creative Services Intern, Corinne Hebestreit, participated in one of our historical tours of CLP – Main. Spoiler… she thinks you should, too!

You might think you have seen most of Pittsburgh if you live here. However, there is one tour in particular that I think all Pittsburghers should go on, and that is the historical tour of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland).

The tours started last summer, and due to their popularity, they are now offered twice a day on Wednesdays and Sundays. When you sign up for a tour, you will meet in the lobby of the Library and your tour guide will start off by sharing some details about the building’s history. The Library was dedicated in 1895; its history is rich and many changes have been made to the building over the years. However, several original pieces of the Library remain. In fact, you may have touched them or walked right over or under them and not even noticed!

While I do not want to give away all of the details of the tour, I will share that the first room you’ll enter is the Children’s Department. Andrew Carnegie valued children’s literacy, which is why he ensured there would be a dedicated spot for children within the Library. This Children’s Department was the first dedicated Children’s Department in Allegheny County, and was also established as the first training school for children’s librarians in the nation. When you visit this area of the Library, you’ll get to see a surprising remnant from Pittsburgh’s industrial boom: a child-sized marble sink. Just looking at it, you can imagine young children scampering into the Library and cleaning the soot from their tiny hands before snatching books from the shelves. It’s a must-see during your tour.

On certain tours, you have the chance to stop at the Preservation Lab, which is located behind a lone door nestled off to the side of the Pennsylvania Department. The work that happens in this department allows for reading materials that have been worn out from excessive use and old age to remain available for library patrons to read. You might even get to observe conservators using vulcanized rubber sponges to remove layers of coal dust coating some of the Library’s oldest reading materials.

There’s a lot to learn about the Main Branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, so I urge you to take advantage of the tour to learn how this institution served the public in Pittsburgh’s past and how it is serving the community in Pittsburgh’s present. Sign up for a tour of  CLP – Main, and enjoy the splendor of the Italian Renaissance-style building that currently houses more than 1.5 million materials. Tours are given free-of-charge twice a day on Wednesdays at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.

By Corinne Hebestreit, CLP Communications & Creative Services Intern

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