Mary Frances Cooper

As the 11th President and Director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Mary Frances Cooper works to strengthen relationships with key community partners, leads new efforts to secure sustainable funding and, in her words, “champions the changing and increasingly important role of libraries in society.” A nationally recognized library leader who has 30 years of experience, has worked in all facets of library service and has expertise in running urban public libraries, Cooper grew up in Upstate New York, Florida and Massachusetts. While she has worked in numerous cities across the country, Cooper is proud to call Downtown Pittsburgh home.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

On November 15, I’m headed to the Fairmont Hotel to celebrate National Philanthropy Day. Our board member, Cindy Gerber, and her husband Murry, were named 2017’s Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Western Pennsylvania Chapter in recognition of their extraordinary efforts in helping members of our community realize their full potential.

November 17 is Comcast Light Up Night in the city. Living Downtown makes it easy to take in the festivities and check out what’s new at the holiday market. It’s a Pittsburgh tradition I always look forward to.

One of my favorite authors, Richard Russo, is speaking on Monday, November 20 as part of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures’ Ten Evenings series. I just finished his latest work, “Trajectory,” a collection of short fiction in anticipation of his lecture. If you haven’t picked up a copy of his work, I highly recommend it.

Mary Frances Cooper
Mary Frances Cooper, president and director, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Best part of your job?

The best part of my job is really the people. Pittsburghers love their library! There is a wonderful cross-section of our community who not only visit for services and resources, but who advocate and volunteer to make sure that the Library is available for residents of all abilities, skills and backgrounds. The hard work pays off when we hear from parents who are grateful for the early learning resources we provide; when a teen tells us his grades improved because a staff member took the time to help him with an assignment; or when a new resident to Pittsburgh is so thankful to find a sense of community that she wants to give back by volunteering her time. The impact we have on residents is both humbling and rewarding.

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about?)

My friend and financial advisor. We discussed United for Puerto Rico and ways to donate to the hurricane relief. Residents are still in need of many basic supplies and necessities.

Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?

The view of Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaur Hall from the second-floor stacks at CLP – Main in Oakland. It’s also a great place to bring a book and read.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

“Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan. I’m looking forward to seeing her when she’s in town for Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures’ Ten Evenings series on December 4.

Bridge you love to walk or bike over?

The Smithfield Street Bridge. It’s simply gorgeous. You miss a lot of its intricate details when you drive across it.

What’s your favorite rainy day Pittsburgh activity?

Taking in a matinee in the Cultural District. On any given day, there is always something interesting to see at the Byham Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater or the August Wilson Center, or at City Theatre on the South Side.

CLP — Main in Oakland. Photo courtesy Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

What Pittsburgh museum do you visit the most?

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. I don’t have an excuse not to see their latest exhibit. We share a campus!

Last photo you took on your phone?

My friend invited me to a Pittsburgh Penguins game and, since it was my first hockey game, we snapped a selfie from our seats. The Pens won easily!

Where do you always take out-of-town visitors?

When I first came to Pittsburgh, the thing I wanted to do most was visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Since then I probably have been there at least a dozen times with friends and family.

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Jennifer BaronEvents & Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.