A library card.
"It's the most precious card in my wallet," said Sylvia Griffin as she took in the grand opening ceremonies yesterday at the new Carnegie Library yesterday on Centre Avenue near Kirkpatrick Street in the Hill District.
"This is wonderful," said Mrs. Griffin, referring to the more than 200 visitors and the entertainment -- the CAPA Jazz Combo, the Tony Campbell Experience, the Pittsburgh Miller School Dancers and Drummers, author Sharon Flake and Temujin, the African storyteller.
While all that was going on, children and adults walked through rows of book shelves, sat at computer tables and/or lined up to sample cheese, meat and cracker trays, vegetables and dips, ice cream and cake.
Dozens of black, purple, silver and white basketball-sized balloons, freed from their overhead holding location by 1-year-old Najier Clark, were "shoed" and booted out of the way or batted toward the ceiling by enthusiastic teenagers.
"Libraries are microcosms of the community -- a central anchor to our past, present and future," said Barbara K. Mistick, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. "Our new location provides even greater access to the library and positions [it] as a cornerstone of this community's redevelopment. We are honored to be a part of its future."
The new library replaces the older one on nearby Dinwiddie Street.
"I'm in here every day," said Mrs. Griffin, 76, a retired antiques dealer who lives nearby. "Some people think I work here. They ask me questions, and sometimes I know the answers," she said with a smile.
Mrs. Griffin said she has passed on her love of reading to the families of her son, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
"I'm an avid reader; I always have been," she added. "I never leave here with just one book. I always check out three or four. [Library Manager Joyce Broadus] orders books for me from the other libraries because she knows what I like."
Her favorite authors are James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark and J. D. Robb, a/k/a Nora Roberts.
"She loves mysteries, but doesn't like those with a lot of love in them," Ms. Broadus said. "She likes a good story. I have her on a little list so I can keep her and other readers up to date on their favorite authors."
Mrs. Griffin is delighted that the new library is less than a block from the Central Baptist Church where she volunteers as a teacher's aide. "It's so close that we can walk the children over here, 20 at a time. They'll love it. There's so much they can do here."
Rontell Goudy, 10, a student at Weil Elementary School, was celebrating the official opening by getting on a computer "and having a little fun" with his MySpace entry.
"I'm here every day because the library helps me to learn," he said. "I do school work and some other stuff."
Timothy Kane, 52, of the Hill District said a library "is progress in the making. The kids need it, and it's a better place to go than the streets. I hope they take a liking to it."
Courtney Story, 34, brought her laptop to the library to do some work on her master's degree in business while her daughter, Lauryn Tyler-Story, 10, played nearby with her cousin, Kiara Story, 11.
"We're thrilled to have an up-to-date library in the Hill that's the equivalent of the one in Squirrel Hill," she said.
"We'll get here as often as we can. We're only five minutes away. We value the library so much that we are donors. It's a wonderful opportunity for families.
The new library is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. It is closed on Wednesday and Sunday.
For more information, go to www.carnegielibrary.org or call 412-281-3753.