After more than 100 years, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on East Carson Street finally has something new to brag about.
"We're a historic landmark now," said Lydia Scott, the acting branch manager, who has been at the South Side location for seven years and in the Carnegie Library system for 37.
The East Carson Street library closed in July 2011 to undergo the first major renovations since its opening in February 1909. It reopened last Saturday, September 8.
The renovations brought the library new shelves, computer pods, air conditioning and better handicap accessibility. Many of the original historic fixtures were kept, including most of the original woodwork and marble baseboards.
To celebrate its renovations and new historic landmark status, the library hosted a grand reopening celebration Saturday. Activities were held indoors and outdoors and included a magician, tours, refreshments and belly dancing.
Elaine Disioda, a clerical specialist at the library for more than 40 years, has watched more than the evolution the library, but the evolution of its patrons as well.
"Years ago, story time in the children's section would have 30 kids at a time," she said. "Now, maybe grandma lives on the South Side, so you take the kids so they can go to story time with her."
Ms. Disioda says families moved out of the area to the suburbs and took the younger population with them. In addition, nearly all seven of the schools the neighborhood once housed have closed over the years.
Ms. Scott said one of the reasons the library has been able to maintain such a strong base of patrons is it has updated its collection to include more than just books. DVDs, audio books and e-books have been added to the library's offerings.
Another big draw is the magazines.
"It's something so simple," said Ms. Scott. "People don't realize we have them and you can check them out. They're always so surprised."
The library's computers also bring in patrons of all demographics. A common misconception is thinking that everyone has a computer.
"Some people just don't," said Ms. Scott. "They come print résumés or check email on their lunch breaks. It's more comfortable here."
An addition that will be coming soon is new laptops, which will be available for visitor use anywhere in the library.
Both Ms. Disioda and Ms. Scott said the thing they like most about the library's history is the nostalgia it brings.
"Some people just come for nostalgic reasons," Ms. Disioda said. "We've had people here from Europe who just wanted to stop in and see what it looks like. They remember coming when they were kids. And it's always been the same."
"More people are noticing us," Ms. Scott added. "And we hope this will introduce even more people to the library."