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Mt. Pleasant Public Library to 'push the limits' with program

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Starting in March, the Mt. Pleasant Public Library will hold sessions open to the public featuring a prominent national program called “Pushing the Limits: Making Sense of Science.”

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the four-part, reading and discussion series for adults is designed to foster a healthy discourse among participants regarding four interwoven, science-related themes: knowledge, nature, survival and connections.

“Some people think of science as something separate from the ordinary world, hard to understand and deal with, when actually science is part with our world. We are all on voyages of discovery,” said Barbara Miller, a reference librarian at the facility who is helping to coordinate the events.

The library received a $2,500 foundation grant as one of more than 100 such facilities nationwide to feature the program.

“This National Science Foundation program helps us see how science is integrated with all aspects of life through readings, interviews, talks from experts in their fields and discussions which involve all of the audience,” Miller said.

The four discussion programs are complemented by more intense discussions of the books, each of which represent a different interface with sciences, Miller said.

On March 17, the “knowledge” session will feature film clips of discussions on the book “Land of Painted Caves” by author Jean M. Auel, followed by a discussion.

The work focuses on how genetic memory and experiential knowledge are combined to question which of the branches on the human tree will survive.

Borough resident Duaine Fuoss, an amateur archaeologist who has collected more than 4,000 Native American artifacts in the area, will be the featured speaker.

“Most libraries have only one discussion per topic, but we have a strong book club in place, and we decided to get them to help draw more people in,” Miller said. “The book club members can be part of the discussion panel at the mid-month meeting where we explore the relationship between science and ordinary life.”

On March 31, participants who have read Auel's book following the discussion are welcome to attend the book club's meeting to share their thoughts on the work.

“The regular book club discussion of the book will include, we hope, new readers who have been inspired to finish the book because of the (March 17) discussion,” Miller said.

Featured books will be available for checkout the entire month, including electronic books, she said.

“Provisions have been made for non-members to borrow books though we certainly hope they will join the library,” Miller said.

A similar format will unfold starting with the “nature” session on April 14, which will feature film clips of discussions of the book “When the Killing's Done” by T.C. Boyle, followed by a presentation by Mary Lou Shick, the library's director and an amateur naturalist.

Boyle's work features a fictionalized conflict between the National Park Service's efforts to destroy an invasive species and radical animal rights activists' efforts to save an island's non-native population of black rats.

“Along with each one of the featured books is a reading list, and we're going to be buying additional books related to the subject matter for people to have access to, at the library,” Shick said.

A discussion of Boyle's book will take place among during the book club meeting on April 28.

Clive Cussler's “Arctic Drift” will be the featured book at the “survival” session on May 12, during which a to-be-determined expert will speak.

The book unfolds as the scientific details of cutting-edge marine technologies are woven into speculative fiction that put the protagonist in extreme conditions: stranded on an ice floe, adrift in a raft or trapped in a sunken wreck.

In observance of Memorial Day, the book club's discussion of the Cussler book will take place June 2, Miller said.

The “connections” session will be June 16, when participants will observe video discussions of “Thunderstruck” by Erik Larsen.

The work examines Gugliemo Marconi's struggle to generate enough electricity for a reliable, trans-Atlantic transmission, which parallels the true-life search for one of Britain's most notorious killers.

Afterward, the group will hear a presentation given by Sharon D'Agostino, a local potter and artist.

The book club will meet June 30 to discuss Larsen's work.

Jamie Falo, director of the Murrysville Community Library and a former head of the borough library, helped carry out the “Pushing The Limits” program at her current post in 2012.

The Murrysville facility, along with the Sewickley Township Public Library, were two of 20 chosen to premiere the series last year.

“It was so successful, we've continued this year, and our group is still meeting,” Falo said. “Sewickley also found success with it, and they are continuing, too.”

This year, the Scottdale Public Library and the Norwin Public Library will also debut the event, Falo said.

Miller said she hopes the local sessions attract a similar turnout.

“These programs are for everyone who enjoys a good discussion. You need not be a member and may come to only the programs that interest you or all of them,” Miller said.

Refreshments will be served and copies of the books will be available.

All “Pushing the Limits” events will start at 6 p.m. at the library.

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A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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