Had Shakespeare known of a place like the North Side, he might not have had Juliet ask of Romeo, "What's in a name?"
You have to be careful what you call things on the North Side. It is 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 or 19 neighborhoods, depending on whom you ask. People get mad if you call it the North Side when there's a shooting there instead of identifying the neighborhood where the shooting was. They get mad if you call it the North Shore to encourage tourists north of the train underpasses. And they get mad if you call it the North Side when they think it should be Allegheny, the city that Pittsburgh annexed in 1907 and renamed the North Side.
The conversation flying back and forth on Internet chat sites now is fueled by rancor over the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's naming of the branch that is scheduled to open this summer on Federal Street.
This week, David McMunn, president of the Mexican War Streets Society, secretary of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council and corresponding secretary of the Allegheny City Society, urged residents to make their displeasure known that the new building will not be called the Allegheny Regional branch but Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Northside.
"The hospital kept its original name -- Allegheny General Hospital (not North Side General Hospital)," he wrote. "The YMCA kept its Allegheny Branch moniker as well. Join with me in keeping historic names attached to our public spaces."
A lightning strike in 2006 damaged the historic former Allegheny regional branch, a grand Richardsonian that the city owns and remains unused. Library administrators decided not to continue branch operations there but to build a new, easier-to-maintain and more cost-efficient branch on Federal Street. That made people mad, too.
Most North Side residents -- at least those who were heard from at meetings -- grudgingly came around to the new design after months of contentious meetings with architects from Loysen + Kreuthmeier and library officials.
The library's spokesman, Suzanne Thinnes, says she regrets this contention now. "We wanted it to be a great thing for the community," she said, adding, "We definitely want to hear from the community if they feel strongly either way."
She said the decision is to call it CLP-Northside. "It is what we are calling it internally." The name on the website www.carnegielibrary.org is still, for now, Allegheny/Northside.
"During community meetings, we heard [of preferences for] both. There were those who were adamant that it remain and also people who felt it was time to change it to 'North Side' because it is a new building," she said.
Would the new branch, were it not Allegheny called, retain that dear perfection which it owns without that title?
We'll find out. Meanwhile, let me know what you're thinking on this topic.