Barbara Mistick will leave Carnegie Library post next year

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Barbara K. Mistick, who as the first woman president of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh navigated that institution through choppy financial waters as it faced deep cuts in state funding, is stepping down from that post as of May 31, 2011, when her contract is set to expire, she said today.

The board is also formally rescinding plans to shut down several library branches in 2011 that had been slated for closure in a restructuring plan announced last year, she added.

Ms. Mistick, 55, who has served as the library's president since April 2005, said she had decided that the time was right for her to move on but wanted to give the library enough time to conduct a national search.

Besides grants from the city last year that helped postpone library branch closings, the library system received a 3 percent increase in funding from the Regional Assets District and it was at the top of the list for donations during the Pittsburgh Foundation's recent one-day online "Pittsburgh Gives" marathon, Ms. Mistick said. The library system also closed its most recent capital campaign with $58 million in donations, $3 million over its goal.

Thanks to community support, the library had weathered its current financial crisis but that a longterm funding solution still must be found if it is to survive in its current form, she said.

"We were able to trim the budget around the edges, so we've cobbled together a solution for 2011. But it's not a long term solution and there still needs to be sustainable funding," said Ms. Mistick in an interview.

Ms. Mistick succeeded Herb Elish, whose ambitious plans for the library included renovations of its main Oakland location along with libraries in Homewood, Brookline and Squirrel Hill. He also presided over the transfer and opening of a new Downtown branch.

"It's more fun to manage growth than decline, but the community has really stepped up and voiced its support to keep the system intact, and I feel very good we've created a defined base of donor support. The library is in the heart of every person in this community," she said, "and they don't want to lose it."

Last year's protests over planned closings actually helped energize that support, she said.

"Folks who don't think about the value of the library started thinking about it differently. People stood up in hearings and said, this is more important than sports, or fireworks. It's the community who rallied behind us and saved the library, don't lose sight of that."

Ms. Mistick, a Shadyside resident, former entrepreneur and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said she hadn't yet decided on her next career step.

"I'm a Pittsburgher, and I love Pittsburgh and I love the library and I am looking at other options that involve education in this city," she said.


Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1949.


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