Library board asks for funds to prevent branch closings

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The board of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh said yesterday that it would be willing to place a moratorium on the planned closure of several library branches, contingent on getting short-term and long-term funding commitments in place before its next board meeting on Dec. 14.

In a letter released yesterday afternoon, the board said that those funding commitments might be hammered out during a Nov. 23 meeting of elected officials spearheaded by library trustee and state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

The letter came in response to demands last week from state and local elected officials for moratorium on closures, as well as more public meetings, a public board meeting on Dec. 14 and more detailed financial information.

To close a budget deficit, the library board voted last month to close the Lawrenceville, Hazelwood, Beechview and West End branches and to merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches.

As the library sees it, the fate of those branches now rests in the hands of elected officials.

"Really, the library's hands are tied," said library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes. "We can't charge for gate revenue. That really comes from public officials. It's a great thing to have them come together and work on short- and long-term funding."

Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields has proposed transferring $600,000 from a city account for buying fuel to the libraries both this budget year and next year to temporarily close the budget gap.

Mr. Shields said that he welcomed yesterday's letter. "I don't want to turn this into an us-against-them type of thing," he said. "We have a problem, we're going to work on it, we're going to find some solutions here."

Last week's letter from public officials also demanded that the board open its Dec. 14 board meeting to the public. While the meeting itself will remain closed, said Ms. Thinnes, there will now be a public forum held prior to the board meeting.

The board also announced additional public meetings yesterday: Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Keystone Church in Hazelwood, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lawrenceville library branch and Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the West End library branch.

Anya Sostek can be reached at or 412-263-1308.


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