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Carnegie library board members seek more borough funding

| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, 6:45 p.m.

Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall board members are asking Carnegie Borough Council to offer more funding to support the facility's operating expenses.

“We really need the borough to step up and support us more,” Isabel Ford, president of the board of trustees, said to council last week.

She said the library received $35,000 this year from the borough while utility costs at the 35,000-square-foot building amount to $87,000 annually.

Ford said the building fell into disrepair, but due to “a lot of hard work from a lot of people … we have been able to transform that building to what it is today.

“It doesn't leak. It's got a beautiful library that's just been restored, a beautiful downstairs room that gets a lot of active use.”

Ford said the library is governed by state standards requiring a full-time employee with a master's degree in library science to be on staff and the building to be open a certain number of hours during the week.

“The money is tight,” she said.

The library is embarking on a campaign to raise money and pursue grants to transform its hillside into Library Park, complete with steps and other amenities. The park's projected cost is $1.5 million.

“We can't get a grant to pay for operating. We can't get a grant to pay for salaries. We can't get a grant to pay for utilities,” Ford said.

She said a survey of Carnegie residents taken over the summer rated the value of the library to their families as 9.71 on a scale of 1 to 10.

“Forty-four percent of them want extended hours. We can't afford it. They would like us to be open on Sundays. We can't afford it. Thirty-nine percent want more children's programming,” Ford said.

Residents also requested additional computer classes and partnerships with schools and day-care and senior centers. “We desperately need the borough to do more of their fair share.”

Council President Patrick Catena said the issue would be discussed as talks begin on the 2017 budget.

“We'll do what we can within our means to assist as much as possible,” he said. “It's obviously very early in the budget season.

“There's many needs across all the departments. We look forward to partnering with the library in trying to bring this to an equitable conclusion for all of us.”

Councilman Michael Sarsfield said officials should “step up” in their funding of the library.

“To me, there's nothing more important than doing what we need to do to save that library,” he said.

“It was a beautiful gift to the town and I've always said, as the gift goes, the town goes. That's who we are.”

David Mayernik Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7975 or dmayernik@tribweb.com.

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