Shaler North Hills Library event brings community together following tragedy |
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Shaler North Hills Library is hosting an art and essay show for people of all ages to respond to the Oct. 27, 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy.

The library will display “Not in Our Town,” starting Feb. 1 in its Community Room. The public also is invited to a closing reception at 7 p.m. March 1 with potential essay readings and refreshments, according to Ingrid Kalchthaler, library youth services coordinator.

Throughout January, patrons may leave submissions of written word, photography, sketches and finger paintings and other art at the children’s department’s youth services desk or adult services area’s reference desk.

“It’s going to be a celebration of hope and a celebration of diversity and everyone’s unique gifts and just to take a stand and to say, ‘You know we’re speaking up, the hatred that one hears about so much, that’s just not the way we are here. Let’s step back and take a look at the hearts and minds of everybody,’” Kalchthaler said.

“The whole project just ties in with the idea of libraries being welcoming places, libraries being open to all, libraries being diverse. And that we want to emphasize that right now in the current climate in Pittsburgh, and I think that this is an opportunity to do that,” said Beth Lawry, adult services manager.

She thinks the show presents a safe venue for patrons to express “both their fears and their hopes and help our community move forward.”

Kalchthaler and Lawry mentioned the library’s initiatives focusing on diversity and kindness.

Last year, the Allegheny County Library Association required the Shaler North Hills Library and other member library staff to undergo diversity training, Kalchthaler said. In November, the library had the opportunity to screen PBS Kids’ “Let’s Go Luna!,” which shows three animated friends traveling around the world to experience different cultures. Moreover, the library is ramping up its Kindness in Action Club, for kindergartners through sixth-graders and their families, which involves finding ways to care for the community, environment and others. The club is switching from meeting monthly to weekly, Thursdays, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10 through Feb. 28.

“The one thing that we just kept thinking and that we just kept telling the kids and ourselves is that this is one man’s act of hate, you know, he acted hatefully, but look at all of the people who responded with love and that just proves right there that love is stronger than hate,” Kalchthaler said.

Lawry said that another activity is the library’s participation in the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read. The library is partnering with Prime Stage Theatre for events from January through March related to the 1994 historical novel “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. The book focuses on Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s 30-year dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic. For additional information, visit:

In the end, Kalchthaler said that the library’s patrons, who come from all over Pittsburgh, have kept her optimistic during dark times.

“What I see when I am here and what I see in our school districts — Shaler and North Hills — is so much hope, and it’s so easy to get bogged down. … There are beautiful, loving, wonderful things that are going on, and by extension, I hope that we’ll encourage more.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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