South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Library asks for input in Allentown


October 12, 2010

All the Carnegie Library branches that have been renovated or rebuilt have doubled or tripled their usage.

That observation came from Mary Monaghan, assistant director for neighborhood libraries, who along with other Carnegie Library staff, visited the Allentown Community Development Corporation meeting on Sept. 30.

"The branches are consistently busier. We're getting more kids, teens, adults and seniors," she said. "We have seen this every place that we have done."

She and the others came to Allentown to discuss and get input on the concept of merging the Knoxville and Carrick libraries at a new site which has not yet been selected.

"I don't live here. I want to know about the things you know about. I want to know what is important to you," said Mary Frances Cooper, library deputy director.

Why does usage increase when libraries are renovated or merged?

"At first it is because people want to see the new library…It is modern compared to libraries of old that looked like battleships…You had to ask the librarian for everything and were afraid of a misstep…Now you don't have to get permission," Ms. Monaghan said.

"We'd have a ‘green' building, on one floor with

lights, computers and space for kids," Ms. Cooper said.

It was noted by the library staff that in the Hilltop area fewer people have cars.

"We are all watching for the impact of transportation changes. Soon it might be easier for some people to just go downtown to the library," Ms. Cooper said.

"Also there is more computer use. I believe there is more usage at the Knoxville library than at any of the other branches," Judy Hackel, Allentown CDC president, said.

She wanted the new library located closer to Knoxville since there are more families with low income and more computer usage there.

Also, it might be easier to find an available location than looking in Carrick since there is more undeveloped property in the neighborhood, Ms. Hackel said.

Knoxville has "interesting architecture," Ms. Cooper said. "And Carrick has a real interest in local history."

However, no decision has been made, yet. "We have to be sensitive to the needs of the two communities which are very different in some ways," she said. The library staff has been meeting with every possible local group to get their feedback.

"There is no real news. We are still exploring the feasibility of several plans. Much is still under discussion," Ms. Cooper said.

Maggie McFalls, library community engagement coordinator, said the Knoxville and Carrick branches will have suggestion boxes so local residents can share ideas and suggest locations.

Recently, Carnegie Library took a bus of Knoxville and Carrick residents to the renovated Allegheny branch "so they could see what we might have," Ms. Cooper said.

"One thing that we are hearing is that people love the staff. They are friendly people and they want them still to be there," she said.

The future of the two buildings where the branches are currently housed would be decided by officials for the city. The city owns the library buildings.

At the conclusion of the meeting library officials asked all patrons to contact the mayor's office at 412-255-2626 to ask him to release the stopgap funds council approved for the library.

Councilman Bruce Kraus, when contacted by phone, explained when preparing the 2010 budget council authorized $600,000, from the capital improvement account, to be given to the library in addition to council's regular allocation of $40,000. Because of reduced funding from other sources the $640,000 is "absolutely critical" to the libraries' operations, he said.

In other business there was an announcement made about a coat drive sponsored by the Brashear Association. Every fall the organization provides much needed coats to children living in south Pittsburgh.

Brand new children's size coats can be dropped off at the Brashear Center, 2005 Sarah Street, through the end of October. Those who want to coordinate such a drive can contact Jennifer Huber at 412 390-3588. The organization cannot accept used items.


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