People can do more than read or borrow books, or get on the computer at the Carnegie Library – Knoxville. The library is a community meeting space.
The Knoxville branch helps people look for jobs, checks out books, provides services to help school children do their homework, circulates DVDs and even points people towards social services help.
During school hours, adult job seekers come in looking for help finding work. The staff helps them develop resumes and create profiles on job websites that can match their skill sets and experiences to open positions. They offer one on one computer help by appointment.
As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, the staff saw more people seeking assistance. They pointed them towards sources where social service help could be found.
The library provides a place for kids after school hours.
“There has been a large concentration of youth within the Hilltop neighborhoods and not a lot of outlets for them. Particularly during after school hours, we have a ton of youth to work on their computers and their homework,” Library Services Manager Ian Eberhardt said. Eberhardt started with the Carnegie Library – Knoxville in 2002 and returned to the Brownsville Road location in 2016 with skills as a children’s and teen librarian.
Students can bring their own laptops or borrow one from the library to do their homework. Games can be played. “We have video games and have had tournaments in the youth area,” Eberhardt said.
There’s a spot where children can read. In good weather, an outdoor deck can be used.
As a Family Place library, the facility is set up for parents or other caregivers to meet. Kids can mingle. That environment can help children learn and grow as they play.
Twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, the Carnegie Library – Knoxville hosts Family Playshop, a Carnegie Library program where caregivers can talk to a child development expert about milestones and health.
The library’s light wall faces Brownsville Road. Hundreds of lights move in a pattern that has been referred to as “twinkly” by the architect. Anyone in the library’s teen area can use a web interface to change the pattern or adjust the speed of the lights. The lights are seen best after dark.
Along with casual reading or studying, the library provides computers and free Wi-Fi. Wireless printers and copying are available for a fee. Community meeting rooms are located on the lower level are. There’s an after-hours book return.
The Carnegie Library – Knoxville is wheelchair accessible. The main entrance can be reached through a ramp. Doors are automatic. Inside, an elevator can take people to the lower level. Accessible restrooms are located next to the elevator.
Outside the library is metered, on-street parking that includes designated accessible spaces. There are bike racks. People who use mass transit can reach the library using the 51-Carrick, 51L or 44-Knoxville bus.
“The aspect of the library as a public sphere where people come to congregate is the element of the library that people enjoy the most,” Eberhardt said.
The Carnegie Library started in the late 1800s, when industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave the city money to build the main Carnegie Library in Oakland. Library branches were opened. The Knoxville library building was constructed in the early 1960s in a Brutalist architectural style. Brutalism was common in construction following World War Two into the late 1970s and early 80s. Brutalist buildings are minimalist, inexpensive and easy-to-build bare-bones concrete structures.
In 2016, the fifty-year-old building was modernized with more floor space, windows, meeting rooms and spaces for children. A multi-million dollar project turned the old building into something warmer and more inviting.
An outdoor deck in the rear of the facility overlooks the pinnacle of a rain garden that was added during the renovations. The rain garden help control the flow of water when it storms. Projects like that can help reduce flooding.
The arrival of COVID-19 curtailed services. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system was closed during the early phase of the pandemic. Some services moved online, including programs for youth. Later, the library and its branches reopened, allowing 25% of capacity and placing a 60-minute limit on in-person services. “Right now, our services are still a little limited as we operate in the pandemic,” Eberhardt said.
The Carnegie Library – Knoxville is located at 400 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.