I am so incredibly thankful to live in a city with a fantastic library system.  Like, if Andrew Carnegie were alive today – even if it was the kind of reanimation that brought him back just as a gross old philanthropist zombie guy – I would give him a huge bear hug.   And then, if he was a zombie, I’d have to put him down for good, but obviously I’d feel really conflicted about it.

We Pittsburghers are well aware of Carnegie’s lasting legacy on our own local library system, but did you know that the Pittsburgh steel magnate is also responsible for the establishment of about 1,500 other libraries scattered across the United States, Canada, Europe, and even parts of Africa?  And out of all those libraries, over 900 of them continue to serve their communities in their intended capacity.  Seriously, Carnegie continues to be a blessing to book-lovers everywhere.  It really makes me wish I knew even a single necromancer or voodoo priestess, or perhaps even a corporate lawyer who could take care of that whole “raising the dead” business for me.  You know, so I can commence with the Carnegie-hugging.

See how huggable he is?  Honestly, he's like the Santa Claus of books.

See how huggable he is? Honestly, he's like the Santa Claus of books.

What’s more, Carnegie’s libraries were the first to feature open stacks, rather than the traditional closed stacks that required librarians to retrieve books for patrons from areas only they had access to and prevented regular folks like you and me from browsing the library’s full collection.  You know that incredible feeling you get from searching all day among the library shelves and coming across an especially beautiful gem of a book?  You owe Andrew Carnegie so much more than you realize.

At this point, a skeptic might well ask: “Pssh.  And just WHY are libraries so great?  Just a bunch of dusty old books.”  To which my reply would probably be a swift kick in his soft spot.  But then he’d associate books and reading with testicular pain for the rest of his life, which is clearly a fate worse than death and wasn’t my original intent, I swear, and oh God, I’m so terribly sorry.

However, in an alternative time continuum, a more levelheaded Michael might have answered (after, of course, first giving the skeptic an obligatory sneer): “Well, the awesome thing about libraries is that people love them for so many different reasons.”  For some, they’re a place for learning and personal betterment.  Many Pittsburgh libraries, for instance, offer classes every day in subjects like foreign language, creative writing, crafting, and gardening.

For others, they’re a place to socialize or to relax.  The gorgeous leviathan of a library attached to the Carnegie Museums in Oakland hosts afternoon video game sessions for teens and book clubs for all ages.  And there’s a Crazy Mocha right off the main lobby where library patrons can savor a latté while deciding which books to take home that evening (correct answer: all of them).

Just a few local book lovers discuss Oprah's most recent Book Club pick.

Just a few local book lovers discuss Oprah's most recent Book Club pick.

I realize this post probably sounds like I’m paid by our local libraries to write awesome things about them, but that’s only because I love Pittsburgh’s libraries so much and I want to spread that love around as much as I can.  If you don’t already own a library card, I urge you to go out and get one today.  You can sign up at the nearest library and it’s absolutely free.  And what could be better than free books?  Maybe sex.  Hmm, yeah.  But probably just sex.

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So, what do you think?