Board votes to cut Carnegie Library branches, hours and staff

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The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's board of trustees voted last night to close or merge eight facilities, trim hours and cut staff to save an estimated $1.2 million in the 2010 budget.

The branch closings of the Beechview, West End and Hazelwood branches; the merger of the Carrick and Knoxville branches; the closure of Lawrenceville's branch after a new branch is opened in East Liberty; the move of the Mount Washington library from Grandview Avenue to Virginia Avenue; and the closure of the Allegheny Depository all begin in February.

This is the first time in the history of the Carnegie Library that branches have been closed -- going from 19 branches to 14 branches. The library has no specific locations for the merged Knoxville-Carrick and Mount Washington branches.

A 28 percent reduction in library hours across all branches starts in January. There also will be 30 positions eliminated in the three-step system: first voluntary retirements, then voluntary resignations, then layoffs. The voluntary retirement plans will be offered starting today.

The board also plans to raise money by increasing fees and fines in January, but offered no details on how much fees and fines will be increased.

The plan drew opposition from Pittsburgh City Council members, one of whom vowed today to try to reverse it.

"We're going to add additional funds to the libraries," said Councilman Jim Motznik, so "maybe we can avoid the closings, but I don't want to give people false hopes."

"I made a motion to delete Beechview from that closure list, with a second from [Councilwoman] Tonya [Payne], only to have that motion voted down with only three votes," said Mr. Motznik. The third vote came from Councilman Bruce Kraus.

He said nearly all of the two dozen trustees then voted for the full plan, with the three council members among a small number of no votes.

Beechview, he said, is in a unique position because it has lost nearly all of its community institutions, and because its residents can't easily get to the nearest other branch, in Brookline.

"There's no bus service in Beechview. You can't ride a trolley to Brookline. Kids can't cross West Liberty Avenue. They'll get killed," he said.

He said council members and the mayor should be able to find $200,000 for the libraries out of 2010 community development block grants, and he might be able to identify more funding during the city's coming budget process.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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