Libraries to tackle five-year program

Ensuring sustainable funding among goals

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Eileen Weiner of Shadyside says she's more interested in ensuring the survival of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh than seeing any major changes to the system.

She's more confident now of the library's sustainability after participating in planning sessions for its new strategic plan during the past seven months.

"I think they've put in place a viable plan for the future," said Ms. Weiner, one of about a dozen community members who turned out at the East Liberty branch Saturday morning for an overview of the five-year plan.

Part of the plan is to ensure that all six recommendations from a public/private task force on sustainable library funding made two years ago are fully implemented. The recommendations included looking for ways to increase corporate and foundation support and exploring possible tax incentives for people who make donations.

The task force also had proposed a special tax, which city residents overwhelmingly approved in November in the form of a new property tax levy. The extra 0.25 mill, which amounts to about $25 a year for the owner of a house valued at $100,000, is expected to generate some $3 million annually for the main branch in Oakland and 18 other branches throughout the city.

Passage of the special tax "was fabulous for funding and also because it was a clear indication of the widespread support for the libraries," said Ms. Weiner, who uses the library for recreational reading and "aimlessly browsing."

Another part of the strategic plan is to ensure that the library buildings are kept in good repair to serve as an anchor for their respective neighborhoods.

As part of that plan, the South Side branch was recently remodeled to include air conditioning for the first time in its 100-year history, said Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh president Mary Frances Cooper. Air conditioning also is coming to branches in Lawrenceville, the West End and Mount Washington. The Lawrenceville branch is also getting a new roof and heating system and refurbished windows.

"We want to be a beacon for the city," Ms. Cooper said.

Residents can read the final draft of the plan at www.carnegielibrary.org/about/strategicplan.

The plan goes to the library's board of trustees for consideration next month and then to the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which provides two-thirds of the library system's funding through the county's 1 percent sales tax.

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