Register for the next discussion with Josh Bell by Friday, October 16. The featured book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

By Frederick A. Hasney IV

Photo: Interior of the Woods Run branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, courtesy of The Northside Chronicle Archives

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is hosting a virtual book club discussion series featuring Pittsburgh Pirates’ first baseman Josh Bell. The series is an expansion of CLP’s Virtual Book Club and it’s taking place as the organization reopens for in-person services to the public.

The Virtual Book Club, started back in March, meets about every two weeks for both a midday and an evening session to accommodate its members.

The session on Monday, September 21 focused on Bryan Stevenson’s novel Just Mercy, and its relationship to the current social climate in the U.S. By giving examples from the book as well as personal experiences, featured speakers each provided their own insight into the social problems they recognize around them. A major takeaway from the discussion was the importance of maintaining a view of hope in a time of peril.

Stevenson’s novel describes his own experience as a civil rights attorney working for the Equal Justice Initiative, which he founded in Montgomery, Alabama. Specifically, the book follows the case of Walter McMillian, a Black man who was wrongfully convicted of a murder he did not commit. In 2019, the book was adapted into a film starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.

During the discussion of the book, Bell, one of the featured speakers, noted how situations like the one described in Just Mercy impact the lives of all the people around the wrongfully convicted individual as well as the individual themselves. Bell shared that his mother is a diversity training teacher and provided stories from her experiences that showcased how her work weighed heavily on her soul and spirit.

The next virtual book club meeting with Bell as a featured speaker takes place on Monday, October 19 at noon. The book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Register to attend by Friday, October 16.

The Virtual Book Club is a priority for CLP as they reopen all branches to the public. Visitors can expect social distancing practices to be in effect, such as increased spacing between furniture and a mask wearing requirement at all times.

Individuals using indoor WiFi and available computers are subject to an additional new protocol: a 30-minute limit. This limit on computer usage can be extended to an hour at select libraries, including Northside’s Allegheny and Woods Run locations, if you call ahead to reserve a session. The number for Allegheny is 412-237-1890, and the number for Woods Run is 412-761-3730. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Services, such as printing, library card registration, and staff assistance, are available in person as well. Programs and events that typically take place in person at the libraries are postponed or canceled.

To protect the public and its employees, CLP has developed a set of COVID-19 safety guidelines beyond common practices. Returned items are quarantined for four days before being processed. The temperatures of all employees are taken at the beginning of each shift, and staff members are required to wear a mask and gloves while they work. Each of the CLP locations have been deep cleaned before reopening and additional cleaning happens after hours.

For those who wish to continue utilizing contactless services, curbside pick-up and outdoor WiFi are available. In addition, the library system is working to add new virtual services for the community.

For more information about the upcoming virtual book club sessions and a list of books to be discussed, visit the program’s Facebook page.

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