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Miss Our Programs? Here are Some Program-alikes to Hold You Over

Good librarians, like any professionals, have a set of little-noticed soft skills that we use to help people in our communities everyday. At the top of that list is something known as the “read-alike.” A read-alike is a recommendation of a book that is available right now, and that will hold you over until that brand new bestseller that you came in looking for is available. Giving a good read-alike is an art form — it has to be enough off the radar that there isn’t a lot of demand for it, but exciting enough to take the edge off of having to wait for what you you really wanted to read.

You might be missing your favorite library programs right now. (Maybe even as much as we miss having them.) And so, in these tough times, I would like to introduce a new concept: the program-alike.

Every couple of weeks, check back for our suggestions for online programs that others in our community and beyond are offering that might be of interest to you if you miss attending our programs. This post will focus on some of our more popular adult programs, but you can expect to see different programs highlighted in the future. And please keep in mind that this isn’t a comprehensive listing, but rather a highly subjective list of favorites, hand-selected because they match the spirit of library programs.

We think that, if you like coming to library programs, you should check out these program-alikes.

If you miss our computer classes…

Helping people use computers is a big part of what we do in the library – our internal data suggests that computer help is the single biggest category of service that we provide. Until we can safely offer in-person computer classes, you do have some options of user-friendly (we promise!) online learning options. In fact, you may be able to learn from a familiar face – library super-volunteer Mike Smialek is offering versions of his popular Excel workshops online for free. Visit Mike’s website for a schedule and to register.

Some other good options are out there:

And a library resource recommendation:’s library of hundreds of high quality tech-training courses is available for free to CLP cardholders.

If you miss author events…

The Pittsburgh literary scene offers readers a wealth of opportunities to connect with authors and other book lovers. At CLP alone, local and national authors are a fixture in our spaces – between our four partner series with Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures and other events in libraries across the city, readers have a lot to miss as these events have been postponed or cancelled. The literary world has come together, though, and many authors and publicists are going online to make sure they stay connected; enough so, in fact, that Littsburgh has found it necessary to maintain their calendar for local virtual events. Check it out so that you can get your fix of book culture!

A couple of other fun suggestions:

  • City of Asylum and City Theatre are bringing the Momentum Festival of readings and workshops featuring new (even not-yet-finished) plays online, featuring a new play that centers on a life-changing book.
  • Belletrist, an online book club, is hosting a virtual book tour featuring interviews some of our current favorite literary authors on their Instagram.
  • And if you miss coming to the Dish! cookbook club program, you may just be the type of person who would want to livestream the James Beard Awards.

And a library resource recommendation: Our Virtual Book Club, which meets every two weeks on Facebook, has become a lively community of book-loving neighbors.

If you miss music programs…

I regularly hear comments, mostly good, from people who are surprised to hear live music performed in the library. Whether it’s our regular weekend music performances at Main, or occasional special events happening in branches, we work to dispel any myths that libraries are places to be shushed at. Until we can safely bring the performers back, we’ll be tuning in to the local music community’s efforts to bring the sounds online. In a lot of ways, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is a sister institution to CLP – they were founded the same year and shared a prominent board member in the early days. PSO has quickly launched Extraordinary Measures, a series of online events, videos, and recordings to bring classical music out to the community. Music has gotten us through some tough times before, so make it a priority to listen now.

A couple of other recommendations:

And a library resource recommendation: Stacks is a growing collection of records by local artists, available to stream for free with a library card.

If you miss creative learning in the library…

The fastest growing segment of library programming over the past few years has been creative learning, which includes hands-on activities, how-to, and crafting – anything where you’re learning things that interest you by using your hands. Until we can all sit together and paint/sew/craft/whatever, we have been finding lots of inspiration on some local Instagram accounts.

  • Prototype shares resources, information for small business owners, and inspiration of all kinds.
  • Assemble’s projects are great for the whole family.
  • DIY school Workshop shares a wide variety of project ideas and community resources.

And a library resource recommendation: We’re still connecting with a community of hands-on learners with our Creative Course Club group on Facebook. Check it out for daily creative prompts, suggestions for online classes, and to share what you’ve been working on.

I hope that these program-alikes hold you over until we can open our doors again to have programs.

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