South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Library officials want something spectacular here


Mary Frances Cooper, director, Carnegie Library, wants "something spectacular and eye catching" when plans are finalized to build a new building which will merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches.

The reason for the merger and a new building involve the need for cost efficiency and "the opportunity to do something wonderful."

Attendees at a meeting on Feb. 18 heard updates on the project and a consideration of possible sites.

Library staff had hoped construction will start in mid-2012 if all went smoothly. But the planners had to revert back to brainstorming and data gathering sessions when negotiations with the owners of the preferred site at 1001 Brownsville Road fell through.

Among the library staffers attending the Feb. 18 meeting were: Ron Graziano, director of Capital Projects; Mary Monaghan, assistant director of Neighborhood Libraries; Maggie McFalls, manager, Community Relations; Karlyn Voss, director, External Relations; Suzy Waldo, manager, Knoxville branch; and Julie Kuchta, manager, Carrick branch.

"We don't have unlimited funds," Ms. Waldo said.

"We can't drag this process on forever," Ms. Cooper said.

Attendees and staff discussed what specific criteria were vital for the operations of a new library.

These criteria included: a safe area with plenty of parking and availability along the bus routes; a community room or meeting room; a room designated to be used by local historical societies; study lounges; longer hours; and a LEED certified, "green," beautiful building.

Thanks to the success of the recent referendum, some Carnegie libraries will be open more days and longer hours, library staffers said.

The Knoxville branch has the highest amount of computer usage in the entire Carnegie system.

Ms. Waldo was asked what was needed to improve the Knoxville branch.

"There are difficulties with the heating and cooling systems and all the work orders. Some of the light bulbs that we are required to use are not even made any more. If the air conditioning system breaks down, it is like a sauna there. It is hard working with the landscaping. We are constantly ticketed when parking in front of the building," she said.

Ms. Kuchta at Carrick was asked to give a similar report.

"We want our library to be comfortable and welcoming. The storage space is limited. We need more natural lighting," she said.

As usual, someone asked why the Carnegie Library does not simply renovate the two current buildings (which are owned by the city of Pittsburgh). This question has been asked often at the many community meetings held to get feedback on the project.

The South Side branch, which is undergoing extensive renovation, has a historic designation which neither of the two Hilltop buildings have and it won't be torn down. However, it is generally less expensive to build a new building than to renovate the current branches.

Staffers have noted at past meetings library branches that have been renovated or rebuilt have doubled or tripled their usage. At first, it is because people want to see the new library. Then satisfaction with the modern improvements keeps them coming back.

Library officials are currently investigating and considering the feasibility of several possible locations. One of the primary considerations is whether the area is zoned properly and whether parking variances are needed.

One of the participants urged the staffers to look at the big picture and consider what adjacent commercial operations that a beautiful, modern library might attract.

A big concern for residents was how their walking distance to the library might increase or decrease.

"We will take back all this information and think it through. By the end of spring we will let you know where we are going and how we are moving forward," Ms. Cooper said.


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