Begun in 1996 in Seattle, Washington, the One Book concept was developed to create a community of readers with a shared love of reading, writing and expressing ideas. Allegheny County joined the nationwide initiative in 2003 with the title To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since 2003 Allegheny County has read Flowers for Algernon, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, The Kite Runner with Fish, The Glass Castle with Money Hungry, I'm Proud of You, The Giver, A Walk in the Woods, and 29 Gifts. When necessary a companion title is offered for younger readers such as Fish and Money Hungry so that they too can enjoy reading a book with their community. Each year’s selection is based on a theme portrayed in the text. The 2012 selection focuses on expressing personal beliefs through the feature title This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. The community comes together to enjoy this one book and explore the different resources available in their area that relate to the theme. Essay contests and readings, book discussions, and library festivities attempt to hold true to the One Book, One Community slogan ‘connecting page by page’ by gathering one community, in concert, to read.
Established in 2001 with a few libraries in partnership with Elderhostel Pittsburgh, the ACLA Conversation Salons have grown to include fourteen libraries hosting monthly discussions. ACLA’s Conversation Salons provide a forum for active participation in the discussion of the meaningful and interesting events of our time. Conversation Salons provide an opportunity for people to become an active participant in the larger world around you to develop the skills of good conversation, and to connect and contribute to the community. Each two hour salon is led by a trained facilitator and is responsible for selecting their own discussion topics. The only guideline is the topics focus on "here and now" issues. Salons meet on a monthly basis in public libraries throughout the county and are free and open to adults of all ages.
PALS the 2004 winner of the AARP Library Services to Older Adults Award, sponsored by Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) and Highmark PALS (People Able to Lend Support) Program, a volunteer program that offers in-home services and quilting clubs in addition to PALS Book Clubs.
PALS Book Clubs bring older adults together monthly for a stimulating conversation about a bestselling title and social interaction with their peers. Each month libraries receive 12 copies of a best seller, two of which are large print when available, and one audio book when available for the book club. Participants can then collect their new book any time after the 1st of each month. PALS Book Clubs are taking place in senior high rises, senior centers and ACLA libraries across the county. Book selections are determined once a year and are based on recommendations by members with help from Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
The Wise Walk is a free 10-week walking program that invites walkers age 50 and up to walk in their own communities. Interested adults of all ages are also welcome to participate. Participants can set their own goals and walk at their own pace using a complimentary walking guide and pedometer. Walkers also receive a t-shirt, healthy snacks, and supplementary activities and resources from the library. Participating libraries offer the opportunity for groups to meet at their local library or a nearby venue to walk together at least once a week. The Wise Walk program is not limited to just the spring time as many groups choose to continue walking throughout the summer, fall, and even winter months. Six years after beginning with a few libraries, in 2012 thirty-eight libraries participated in the Wise Walk program.
In 2009 the Wise Walk won an AARP Pennsylvania Library Services to Older Adults Award and an APPLS (Association of Pennsylvania Public Library Systems) Best Practice Award making it a must have program for libraries across the county and a model for other communities. This program is brought to you by the Allegheny County Library Association in collaboration with AARP and UPMC for Life and hosting libraries.