Art Lending Library

image of artwork that can be checked out of the libraryOn October 6, the Braddock Carnegie Library began circulating more than just books and DVDs: works of ART are now available to all patrons who possess an Allegheny County library card. Just like books, DVDs, and music, you can take works of art home with you and have them in your house for up to three weeks at a time. The works of art available in the collection have been donated by several different artists – some are local, others are participating in the Carnegie International Exhibition (housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art). The art lending library allows patrons to experience different works of art in their own homes, as well as allowing artists to share their creations with a wider audience.
“All You Can Art” was the kickoff event. It attracted hundreds of people, and opened in conjunction with the 2013 Carnegie International exhibition. The idea of an art lending library started with an artist collaborative called Transformazium. The members – Ruthie Stringer, Dana Bishop-Root, and Leslie Stem – all work at the Braddock Library and are heavily invested in the community there. They have worked to get many members of the community involved in working at and helping to sustain the art lending library.
The art lending library is just the newest of many services at the Braddock Carnegie Library. The library is a place that is accessible for everyone in the community. Like most libraries, books and movies are in heavy circulation and the computers are often in use by community members – but Braddock Carnegie Library offers more than just circulating items and internet access. The children’s space (where most of my time is spent) is an almost-constant hub of afterschool activity – kids are always there to get on the computer or tablet, do crafts or homework, play with Legos or puppets, socialize with their peers, and sometimes they even read books. “Creative Wednesdays” are held from 4 to 5 (or 6, or 6:15) with a new craft for the kids to attempt every week. On Saturdays, both music class (in the room next door, containing a piano and a statue of Hermes) and clay class (in the pottery studio downstairs) are offered to the kids, free of charge. There is open studio time in the screen-printing shop upstairs (also brought to Braddock by Transformazium) for the kids on Thursday evenings, run by members of the Braddock Youth Project. For adults, the pottery studio is open on Tuesday and Thursday nights (free for residents of Braddock, and inexpensive for anyone else), and the screen printing shops is open on Saturdays. There are also many other programs and goings-on at the library – yoga class is held on Thursday nights, a community book club meets once a month, and different organizations hold meetings there throughout the week.
Serving at the Braddock Carnegie Library has given me an opportunity to see what community investment looks like. Most of the staff at the library lives in Braddock, and they work to make the library a community center, offering many resources to all that live in the 15104. Although it is not a large, expansive organization, it is an effective and a beautiful picture of what it looks like when people work to make their community a better place.

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