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Inspired by the Past, Empowering the Future

Old black and white photography of a group of children standing near a "home library" cabinet, c. 1928
 “Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Home Library Group,” unknown photographer, c. 1928. CMOA. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Following a Library program in 2021, Dr. Cynthia Cozette Lee was curious about the “Home Library” boxes that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s librarians distributed between 1900 and 1915. She remembered her mother, Grace Garner Lee, who grew up on Gazzam Street (in what is now considered the Hill District) in the 1920s telling her children how she had read every book in the “Home Library” when she was a small girl.

To help ensure families throughout the city would have access to books, librarians left wooden cabinets in homes or community centers. Neighborhood children could gather to take home books or enjoy a storytime with the visiting librarian. Dr. Lee wondered if some of the faces in the photo she was seeing online looked surprisingly familiar. Could one of the children in this group be her mother, and another her aunt? Was there more to the story of Home Library No. 13? Could it have been adopted by another agency like the Soho Community House , which provided library, health and childcare services to families in that area through the 1940s? Cynthia and her sister Hazel were excited to dive into Pittsburgh history and see if they could learn more about the experiences of their own and other African-American families in the early 20th Century.

Photo portrait of Dr. Cynthia Cozette Lee holding a flute
Dr. Cynthia Cozette Lee

Wherever young Grace visited the Home Library and developed a love of reading, she certainly passed her enthusiasm for books onto her daughters. Cynthia and Hazel fondly recall visiting CLP – South Side all summer long, their arms filled with as many books as they could carry. And while Grace herself never went to college, her daughters hold degrees from prestigious universities: one an accomplished composer, the other a scientist, and both published poets and authors.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has been there for her family for multiple generations and Dr. Lee feels strongly about helping to ensure the Library is there to inform, inspire and empower future readers and writers, scientists and artists, entrepreneurs and leaders. That’s why she has joined the Library Circle, a community of like-minded donors who are committed to the sustainability of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for generations to come.

You too can include Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in your legacy and ensure that future generations will be able to access and enjoy the library services that helped shape you and your family by:

  • Making a gift to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh through your will
  • Naming Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, annuity, IRA or other account
  • Visiting our website to find more information about making a future gift

Contact Anne Lee at 412-325-0056 or to learn how you can make a gift that empowers future generations. Please let us know if you have already included the Library in your estate plans and would like to be recognized as a member of the Library Circle.

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