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Photo of Mary Frances Cooper

On January 1, Mary Frances Cooper, MLS, became the 11th Director in the 116-year history of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

She is no stranger to the library system. Since 2008, Mary Frances has served as the Library's Deputy Director, overseeing Main and Neighborhood Library Services, Youth Services, Teen Services,Volunteer Services and Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped.

Photo of Mary Frances Cooper reading to Children at CLP-Carrick

Mary Frances Cooper, President and Director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, reading to children at CLP - Carrick.

Photo of Mary Frances Cooper with Author Sebastian Junger with Jayne Adair

Left to right: Author Sebastian Junger with Jayne Adair, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures and Mary Frances Cooper.

Photo of Mary Frances Cooper with Jackie Dixon

Left to right: Mary Frances Cooper and Jackie Dixon, Director of Government Relations, Giant Eagle.

During your career you have worked in a number of public libraries, including New York Public Library, Minneapolis Public Library and the Louisville Free Public Library. How does Pittsburgh compare?

Without hesitation, Pittsburgh has one of the greatest library systems. It is held in high esteem both within the national and international library communities. Imitation is seen as the highest form of flattery, with many of our programs and policies being duplicated in other cities.


What's the best thing about Pittsburgh?

Every Pittsburgh neighborhood has great things to offer. You don't have to look hard to find a cultural experience or something new to explore.


The biggest misconception about libraries is

That technology is making them irrelevant. In fact, technology is driving the way libraries provide information to our users; it's providing opportunities for greater collaboration. Right now, we're expanding our collection of eBooks and downloadable materials, providing high speed Internet and Wi-Fi access and digitizing historical documents so that people around the world can access the materials instantaneously. It's an exciting time for libraries - we are embracing technology and working with our community to understand their needs.


What are your plans for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh?

I have articulated four areas of focus in presentations to the Board of Trustees, Library staff and our Friends Groups.

These are:

  • Connecting with our community - Finding a seat at the table wherever important decisions are being made so that we can leverage the power and the influence of the Library;
  • Envisioning and implementing the Library of the future - To be a stabilizing influence in our community when evolving format and access methods cause difficulty or confusion;
  • Growing and maintaining our sources of funding - Focusing on the five remaining recommendations of the Public/Private Task Force on Sustainable Funding and
  • Telling our story - In a way that aligns our services with the priorities of our neighborhoods, our city and our region.
  • >> This year we will develop a strategic plan that will guide Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for the next five years. We are counting on the community to share their thoughts and ideas as we move forward with the plan.

What types of books do you like to read?

I tend to gravitate toward books that are character-driven and will read anything by Richard Russo. However, growing up, I was encouraged to experiment with different genres and subject matter. I have read everything from historical nonfiction to romance, from pioneer stories to the classics. I always say that I will read anything once. When I'm looking for a good book, I tend to trust our staff recommendations. When I see a staff pick or suggestion on one of the Library's blogs, I reserve it right away!


What is the one book everyone must read?

There are so many great books, but if I had to choose one it would be Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. There is something about the story and the way the characters are developed that help us to understand our society and ourselves.


Best piece of advice I've ever received

Move to Pittsburgh - you'll love it there!