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Local librarians take part in Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh book campaign

| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is asking readers to name the book that made a difference in their lives.

But asking local library directors the same question means they have to sift through the hundreds of titles in their mental card catalogs for just one title.

Comments for the library's awareness campaign has run the gamut, said Suzanne Thinnes, communications manager at the main branch in Oakland.

“It's either a recent book, one someone has read again and again or a book read early on that is being shared now with family,” she said. “The responses are very thoughtful.” Thinnes' life-changing novel was “Gone with the Wind.”

“And I love the movie. Scarlett O'Hara is such a strong female role model,” she said.

Nate Wyrick, interim library director and archivist at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, has J.R.R. Tolkien to thank for many things, including his nickname.

As a minister's son, Wyrick's reading was restricted to religious materials, he explained. Then, in the third grade, it happened.

“'The Hobbit' was the first non-Christian book I was allowed to read,” the 34-year-old said.

He had such a bond with the book that his mother and close friends called him “Hobbit.”

Paula Kelly, director at the Whitehall Public Library, admits to being in love with Atticus Finch, one of the main characters in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“He was the perfect example of integrity,” she said.

Kelly first read the novel in school. She even owns a T-shirt that reads: “What Would Atticus Do?”

“The movie is just as good as the book,” she said. “I watch it yearly and have a good old cry.”

Kelly has directed all of the activities at the Whitehall Library since 2009, although she began volunteering in 1997. It's the same library her mother worked in for more than 25 years.

At Pleasant Hills Public Library, director Sharon Julian-Milas named “The Diary of Anne Frank” as life-changing literature. The book set her pre-teen world upside down.

“Anne was living a normal teenage life, and it changed so drastically, and the story was true,” she said.

The book introduced her to the horrors of the world and made her “more aware of social implications and history.”

The Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series also had its impact.

“They lived a totally different life than I lived in the suburbs. Their daily existence was survival.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” got another vote from Rebecca Long, director of the Bridgeville and South Fayette Township libraries. She remembers reading during a summer road trip.

“It was the first time I had read a book I couldn't put down,” said Long. “I come from a family that is big on reading, and we were big library users. It was the book that made me go, ‘Oh, this is what literature is about.'”

She comes to her career by way of a bachelor's degree in archaeology, but skills she developed in her course work still apply.

”I have always loved to do research, answering questions and connecting people to information or the answer they are seeking,” she said.

Long had hoped she'd find her life's work as an archivist or at a museum, but said she learned firsthand about a public library's impact through the programs they offer.

She became director of South Fayette Township Library in 2011 and Bridgeville in 2014.

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Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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