Carnegie library director finds spending day with 57 sixth-graders a surprising treat

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When Diane Klinefelter, the Espy Post curator at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall told me that she and Scott Donnelly, a social-studies teacher at Carnegie Elementary School, had arranged a Civil War field trip, I thought, “Great!”

When she told me it would last four hours, I thought it sounded like the field trip from hell.

I could not have been more wrong.

Fifty-seven sixth-graders and their teachers showed up at 10 a.m. When they left at 2 p.m., we were sorry to see them go. Diane; JoLynne Dougherty, the library's children's program coordinator; Ken Steinmetz, a member of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves; and I stood on the front steps of the library, snapping photos, waving goodbye and promising to build on our new relationship.

May 1 was the library and music hall's 113th anniversary. I can't think of a better, more mission- advancing way or nicer people with whom to spend this birthday.

Diane had designed a great experience. We started with a plenary session in the music hall to talk about Andrew Carnegie; the library and music hall's history; and how lucky the kids were that Carnegie has such beautiful historic library, performance venue and rare Civil War room. The students were inquisitive, engaged and prepared. When I pointed out the seat plaques with names of Carnegie residents, one boy asked if anyone had named a seat for Andrew Carnegie. What a great idea!

Diane introduced herself as the curator and asked what that meant. Another boy answered, “A person who knows the most about something.” Not far off the mark — Diane will add that to her resume.

We split the students into three groups. Each group visited the Espy Post with Diane; explored the life of a Civil War soldier with Lt. Steinmetz, who was in uniform and brought his 1861 Springfield rifle and re-enactor's gear; and designed corps badges and played some Civil War games with JoLynne.

After two rotations, the students had lunch in the studio. They completed their third; then we all gathered in the music hall for recaps and final questions.

The students did their school, their families and themselves proud.

Maggie Forbes is the executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.

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