Carnegie Library's Downtown branch expands services for children

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In the past, when parents walked through the public library door at 612 Smithfield St., Downtown, to ask about programs for children, a staffer would have to direct them elsewhere.

Not any more.

On Saturday, the Downtown and Business branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh kicks off a "Family Fun Earth Day" celebration, complete with a new children's librarian and an expansion of children's services, reflecting the changing demographics of Downtown as well as a more favorable budget climate.

"It's not officially a children's library with a separate space, but it's close enough," said Karen Rossi, who manages the branch. She noted that there will be more books, DVDs, audiobooks, story times and craft projects. Overall children's materials will increase by about 25 percent, from 3,500 items to about 4,400.

They include new formats such as Playaways, an entire book on an MP3 player, and Playaway View, which provides video content on small portable devices.

This represents a step forward, and in some ways, a step back: In 2005, at the library's former location at the Bank Center on Wood Street, there was a dedicated children's section, but it was closed when the library moved to its current location.

But the children kept coming, as Downtown increasingly attracted new residents. As of late 2013, there were 2,100 new housing units in the pipeline alone for the Greater Downtown area, according to data provided by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. And since 2000, the resident population has grown 40 percent, with an increase in younger people.

A 2012 survey by the partnership found that 27 percent of residents are younger than 30, a number that included children, and 62 percent are younger than 50.

"We have children in the library every day," said Ms. Rossi. "There are more families living Downtown, and with Downtown being the hub for buses and day care centers, we had more and more parents stopping in with their kids asking about programs," she said, noting that the library is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has new Saturday hours as well.

Her children's librarian doesn't represent a new staffer, just a reconfiguration, but nonetheless the changes come at a time when the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's budget has stabilized because of increased revenues from a new property tax of 0.25 mill approved by voters in 2011 and money from a casino gambling tax, along with support from the Regional Asset District, private donations and state funding.

For more information on the library's Earth Day event Saturday for children, go to or call 412-281-7141.

Mackenzie Carpenter,, 412-263-1949. On Twitter @MackenziePG.

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