August 10, 2010 |

Suggestions about how to make Carrick library a better facility

Suggestions about how to make

Carrick library a better facility

There were three questions that Carnegie Library staff sought answers for at a special public meeting on Aug. 4 held at the Carrick branch.

That night the topic under discussion was the possible merge of the Knoxville and Carrick branches, along with the proposed construction of a new building to house both.

Staff members led the discussion among more than 35 participants, including several community leaders. There have been many public meetings and sessions with neighborhood organizations to discuss the topic.

The three questions were:

1. What do you like about the (Carrick) library?

2. What would you change about it?

3. What else does the staff need to know?

"Be really honest," said Mary Monaghan, assistant director of Neighborhood Libraries, told the group.

The answers included:

Question One:

The bright, cheery, warm welcoming atmosphere was praised.

The staff was complimented for their help with reference material and their relationships with families and schools.

The library was described in positive terms as a safe place, with air conditioning, programs, a coupon box, special programs, plenty of information and pamphlets and accessible technology.

"It is a depository for community artifacts," one person said.

"It is an oasis," another said.

The library has access to collections of books all over the county.

Question Two:

The Carrick library needs more comfortable chairs and more parking. The Knoxville branch needs more computers.

Various departments, such as information for teens and displays of audio-visual materials, need to be kept separate.

"Since you are asking, why not a café offering coffee and Danish?" asked one attendee.

Question Three:

"I love small libraries," one lady said. "I like to look at things while I am able to keep an eye on my grandchildren. I like it more compact. If you want a big library, get in your car and go to one."

Several attendees asked that the libraries "leave the staff intact."

Mary Frances Cooper, deputy director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, gave background on what had happened recently prior to the meeting. She said the proposal regarding library closings and mergings was one of the top ten news stories of 2009. "Then our friends on council

got us some stop gap funding." However, the concept of merging Carrick and Knoxville was still under consideration.

"Within the next six months we'll make a decision," she said.

She added, "People want to know how we'll pay for it. The answer is: state, local and federal sources. It is a significant amount of money but it can only be used for a new building. It can't be used for any other purpose."

Reasons for a merge and a new building are the need for cost efficiency and "the opportunity to do something wonderful," Ms. Cooper said.

"How big would this new building be?" someone asked.

"It depends on the property that we find for it. Probably about 11,000 to 12,000 square feet. Carrick has 4,000 square feet. Knoxville has 9,000 but only one floor is useable," Ms. Monaghan said.

Ms. Cooper said Carnegie Library still has "significant funding issues," with less state funding and the Regional Asset District money "flat for the past three years."

Carnegie Library is still trying to decide where to locate the new library and attendees were asked to indicate on an area map where the best site might be.

Ms. Cooper also asked the attendees to suggest any community group or organization library staffers have not spoken with yet.

Maggie McFalls, community engagement coordinator, and Julie Kuchta, Carrick branch manager, also attended the meeting.

"You all have been really helpful. We want to keep everyone informed," Ms. Cooper said. "We all know that you love our libraries."

"In September we will have a general community conversation. In the fall we will continue to evaluate our options."

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