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North Side library endeavors to become teen hangout

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Chastity Cook, 14, of Brighton Heights, works on a computer Saturday, November 23, 2013, during the grand opening of a teen center in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Allegheny branch on the North Side
Library patrons and staff celebrate the grand opening of a teen center Saturday, November 23, 2013, in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Allegheny branch on the North Side.
Cindy and Murry Gerber speak to the media during the grand opening Saturday November 23, 2013, a teen center in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Allegheny branch on the North Side. The Gerbers, along with Houston-based Halliburton Company, gave a $1.5 million grant through their foundation for the center and another at the Carnegie’s East Liberty branch.

Chastity Cook likes spending time at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Allegheny branch in the North Side to surf the Internet and do homework.

“It's like an open space for me,” said Cook, 14, of Brighton Heights, and a ninth-grader at City Charter High School, Downtown. “I can be by myself or be around other people.”

Saturday, there were plenty of people for Cook to interact with, as the Carnegie celebrated the opening of a teen space, thanks to part of a $1.5 million grant provided by the Cindy and Murry Gerber Foundation, along with Houston-based Halliburton Co.

Teens played football and basketball games on two gaming consoles, or chatted with friends on Facebook, or browsed through young adult-themed books tucked into a corner of the branch. The section of the library was designed with input from area teens.

“You have to attract them with the fun stuff,” Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, said. “We know they need some encouragement to come to the library and stay there.”

Ethan Shomo, 14, a ninth-grader at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 in East Liberty, furiously worked an Xbox 360 controller as he played a basketball video game while laying on one of several large pillows on the floor. He said he doesn't have a computer at home, so it's helpful to have one handy at the teen center. Also, he said, he likes to play video games with other people.

“I like it here,” Shomo said. “And there's nothing else to do.”

LeeAnn Anna, Carnegie's teen services director, said developmental studies show that children should, in essence, have three places to go. One is home, another is school, and the third are places such as churches, recreation centers and libraries.

It's important, Anna said, for teens to have someone to talk to and confide in, someone they feel they can trust at a library.

“They can bring an issue or an information need to a mentor,” Anna said, adding that there are teen-themed programs at all branches. There's a teen center in the main branch in Oakland.

The Gerbers said plans are in the works for a teen center next year in East Liberty. Cindy Gerber is a retired labor attorney, and Murry Gerber is the retired CEO and board chair of EQT energy company. The Indiana Township couple are parents of children ranging from 13 to 18.

“The teen years tend to be a lull in support, so we want to make sure there's programming and facility to guide kids from those teen years to a productive life,” Murry Garber said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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