Barbara Logan doesn’t play with dolls—in fact she never did.
“I had little brothers growing up, so they were like my own living dolls,” Logan says.
But when the Valleyview Road resident and Carnegie Library Board of Trustees member read a local article about the American Girl Doll Lending Library, she wanted to help.
Logan contacted Carrie Lane, the Allegheny County Library Association Youth Services Coordinator…and then she started sewing.
“I saw the article and was struck by it,” Logan says. “So I emailed Carrie and made some little quilts for the dolls.”
The American Girl doll lending library is available at 13 Allegheny County Libraries. Each kit includes a doll, carrying case, hairbrush and journal where the children and parents can record what they did with the doll.
The kits also include brochures provided by the Heinz History Center that localize the Pittsburgh area during the era a particular doll’s story is based on. Children who take the Kit doll home will read about the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1930s, since Kit’s character is a baseball fan who grew up during the Great Depression. Take home Felicity, a character who lived during the Revolutionary War, and read about the importance of Fort Pitt during that time.
Logan, who also served as a Mt. Lebanon Commissioner, President of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library and President of Friends of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, thinks the brochures take life in Pittsburgh over the years and put it into perspective for children and adults.
“I don’t think people grasp the concept that things were very different,” she says.
The ACLA currently has 30 doll kits available to lend out, and 13 more that the association is in the process of cataloging. There is typically a three-week waiting period for the doll kits, which patrons can reserve on the library catalog.
The lending program started when Hayley Haldeman was trying to come up with a plan for her old American Girl dolls. Even though the pricey dolls are out of reach for many families, when she searched for local organizations where she could donate the dolls, she came up empty.
Haldeman, a Friendship resident and associate attorney at Jones Day, persisted despite the lack of options.
American Girl dolls sell for $115 on the American Girl doll website, which doesn’t include the accessories kids love. The historical dolls often sell for even more, because many have been retired since the line began in 1986.
Although Haldeman began the lending program with the intention of collecting gently used dolls, donors have contributed almost $6,000 to purchase dolls. She, Logan and Lane originally set an end goal of $15,000, but now they may have to reconsider.
“We’ve had some very enthusiastic patrons who inspired us to go bigger,” Haldeman says.
Lane was also the proud owner of American Girl dolls as a child. “I had three American Girl dolls, and they are some of the best memories about my childhood,” she says.
Seven-year-old Penelope Hoover, Elatan Drive, borrowed American Girl dolls from the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, which has a program similar to ACLA’s.
Hoover is a fan of the dolls. She owns several of her own and enjoys reading the books.
“I like the stories and the adventures that the American Girls have,” she says.
“All of their adventures can be difficult and they figure out how to get rid of problems and make friends.”
Cynthia Richey, Director of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, says the library is not part of the ACLA program, but has two of its own kits. The Mt. Lebanon Library kits do not include the historical brochure, but Richey, who retires this month, expects that our local library will eventually offfer them.
Haldeman hopes that the dolls will continue to inspire young children, like Hoover, to use their imaginations and invoke an appreciation of the past.
“People donate because they had children who loved the dolls so much. It’s a fantastic way for women to pass on to the next generation.”