Tag Archives: Homestead Strike

Susan Speaks: Library SOS


There just isn’t any other word for it but COOL.

It may have taken 113 years to realize Andrew Carnegie’s full vision for what was one of the country’s (and perhaps the world’s, but I don’t know that much history about libraries around the world) first free library, but it’s happening. In Homestead, PA.

If you don’t know, it ain’t like West of Mars. Homestead’s an old steel town. Unemployment is rife. Unlike around here, high school graduates aren’t assumed by anyone to be heading off to the Ivy League.

The library? The third one in the city built by Mr. Carnegie as part of his chagrin over the Homestead Strike (or so I was taught in my Pittsburgh history classes and you can tell I don’t recall ALL the details.). This place OOZES history.

And now it oozes sweat — from the thousand-seat music hall. From the health club. Yes, a health club in a library!

But wait. You know how libraries ought to be climate controlled, to preserve the books? Well, back in 1898, when the place was built, there wasn’t exactly air conditioning. So that pool in the basement? Made perfect sense.

Apparently, it still does. It’s being renovated, but that doesn’t take away its title as “the longest continually operating heated pool in Western Pennsylvania” (That’s a direct quote from the morning paper and thanks to them for letting me use it).

There’s also a bowling alley inside, which doesn’t surprise me, having spent a few summers in a bowling alley on the Chatham University campus — that one is located inside of what was first a private residence and only later became part of the school. However, the bowling alley in the Carnegie Library of Homestead may find a new purpose: that of a spot for some indoor baseball training.

Doesn’t matter, does it? The idea here is that these extra things will help fund the library and help create a community center. Now, 113 years after Carnegie shared his vision with the city of Pittsburgh, it’s being realized.

Andrew Carnegie was, at times, a controversial figure (see above mention of the Homestead Strike), but for us, today, who are facing budget cuts in our libraries, isn’t this a model we ought to explore more? If that music hall and that health club and that swimming pool can keep people’s minds fed along with their bodies and their musical souls, shouldn’t we support them, cheer them on, and make sure they succeed?

Here’s the link to the full article. Use it. Homestead isn’t the only local library going this route.

Kudos to them. And kudos to anyone else in any other city who heads down this path. Let’s save our libraries, folks!