South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

South Side Library to undergo $2 M renovation, work may include electric, elevator, exterior cleaning


Part of the basement of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh South Side was designated in the 1950s to be used as a bomb shelter if necessary.

The library's basement and second floor are now generally not used.

However, years ago, a caretaker and his family used the second floor as living quarters with bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. The upper right hand corner of the basement was once used to store coal.

Architects from Loysen and Kreuthmeier have been exploring the building prior to making recommendations for improvements that are scheduled for next year.

"We are preserving and enhancing a cherished place," Sallyann Kluz, a staff member at the firm, said.

"The library was built in 1909 and there has not been that much change to it," said Karen Loysen, a principal of the firm, at a 90 minute renovation planning session held on Nov. 17.

"We intend to preserve as much as we can of the original, she added.

The renovation plan is on a fast track since the grant money to fund repairs must be spent by a certain date. Construction cost is expected to be between 2 to 2.5 million, Ronald Graziano, Carnegie Library's director of facilities development, said. State Sen. Jay Costa obtained a $250,000 grant and the Carnegie got a 500,000 Keystone State Grant. Ideas for repairs have been discussed in past years and opinions were obtained via surveys but plans were never implemented.

The initial impression when viewing the building is "that it looks fantastic" but a closer inspection reveals some problems, Ms. Loysen said. The outside stone sills are, in some cases, badly deteriorated. Much of the building needs cleaned and some of it needs rebuilt. The rubber tile floor needs replaced and more outlets must be installed since 

the building was not designed for extensive electricity. The front stairs and ramp need to be made to look more attractive. A new elevator is needed to provide access to the second floor and basement.

"I'm a library geek. I like going to other communities and checking out libraries," Ms. Kluz said. The architects showed slides of renovated libraries in this area, other parts of the U.S. and in Italy and England.

The North Side branch, renovated by the firm, has inside benches for patrons near windows. "We are told that this has made the street less angry," Ms. Kluz said.

The architects intend to keep the South Side floor plan "as it is, unless we hear otherwise," Ms. Kluz said.

More electrical outlets will be provided "in a sensitive, tasteful manner" and all the woodwork will remain intact.

The discussion questions proposed to the audience were: What do you like about the South Side library; What don't you like; What do you like about other libraries; and, What don't you like?

Comments included:

"It's home. It's cozy. I hate to see too many changes. I would like to see air conditioning and more color. It is homey."

"When my teenage daughter walks in, she feels uncomfortable. We need to make teens feel welcome and to attract more young people."

"The library at Oxford University, where I attended and graduated, hasn't changed its furniture in 200 years. We need to keep our library comfortable and cozy with old furniture that you think of as an old friend."

"We need headsets so teens can listen to music."

"Are there plans yet for the flooring? (In response, Ms. Kluz pointed to the current floor and said, "Not this.") "Would a coffee shop be feasible?" "That has come up a lot," Ms. Loysen said. "It may not make economic sense because of the local businesses," Ms. Kluz said. "The lighting is not only not useful but not very attractive."

"How are you going to replace the roof?" Ms. Loysen said she was looking at a number of materials. "Weekly movies shown at other branches have been very well received."

"The tables are remarkably sturdy. I'd hate to see them thrown out."

"I'd like to see the trees stay where they are." Ms. Kluz said an expert inspected the trees and found one that was unhealthy but said the other were fine but just needed more nurturing.

Councilman Bruce Kraus said he loved the Homewood restoration. He liked the idea of again having a skylight in the South Side building. He said the handicapped rail and ramp needed to be replaced because they looked so unattractive.

Another public meeting will be scheduled for January or February.

Mr. Graziano said he hoped repairs would start in mid-summer and take 10 to 12 months to complete.


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