By Emma Paulini — 11th Grade, Fox Chapel Area High School
The library: a public space filled with books, resources, and knowledgeable librarians. A place to learn or simply relax. A place to meet friends, old and new.
Throughout the summer months, Pittsburgh teens take part in the Teen Summer Reading program sponsored by Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh. At the end of the season, summer readers and their friends are invited to attend the Teen Summer Reading Party at the East Liberty Carnegie Library to celebrate their achievements.
On August 15, about 20 teens gathered in and around the dome-shaped teen hub of the library nicknamed “The Hive.” They chatted, ate pizza, crafted fusion bead creations, rolled candy sushi, and competed in a Super Smash Bros video game tournament. Teen Specialist librarians Andre, Kati, and Simon led activities and reflected on the teens’ achievements.
At any point during the summer, teens may sign up to participate in the summer reading program. Once signed up, they log books or magazines they’ve read in order to reach a set goal. Readers earn digital badges through Pittsburgh City of Learning as they maintain skills and reach goals. Participants also receive a free book, as well as raffle tickets for the possibility of winning the grand prize: a Kindle Fire.
Antwon joined the program this summer and described how much he enjoys reading anime books. Another teen, Huldah, loves books and explained that she reads anything from fantasy to adventure. She highly recommends I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, saying, “That one’s really good. I read it in a day.”
The library is a great environment to catch up on good reads and share summer reading pleasure. “Not only do the teens want to log each book, but they come in excited to tell us about them,” said Kati, an assistant librarian.
Some teens made new friends while others reconnected with old friends from the summer. Teen specialist and assistant librarian Andre noted the group of familiar faces who were at the library regularly. Huldah mentioned she comes in twice a week, and another teen, Kristina, piped up, “I’m here every day!”
As she crafted at the party with her friends, Jazmine added that she’s had more fun at this library than ever. She says it with good reason: the library offers a variety of events and classes to teens throughout the summer, such as the “Reading Lounge” book club, sewing classes, and photography. As they master each new skill during the workshop, teens earn digital badges to add to their online portfolio from Pittsburgh City of Learning. Many of these events are part of The Labs, “a teen-only creative technology program” with materials and equipment available in the teen space and with librarians as mentors. In addition to workshops, open labs are offered, where teens can continue practicing what they’ve learned or work on independent projects. Filmmaking, 3D printing, and fashion design courses are some of the many popular classes.
Even as summer reading comes to an end, the library and all its offerings foster a welcoming community. Teens look forward to returning, their summer reading experiences as jumping points for forming new friendships, relishing stories, and making memories that will continue long after summer is over.
Emma Paulini is a junior at Fox Chapel Area High School. She is on the Senior Staff of her school’s literary arts magazine, is published in the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology, and has received Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Emma also enjoys dancing, cooking, and exploring the world.