Fundraising put to test at Carnegie library
In her eight years at Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall — the last six as executive director — Maggie Forbes spearheaded the campaign that raised $7.5 million for the restoration and renovation of the 112-year-old building.
When she stepped down in October 2011, the building was “weatherproof, structurally sound (and) accessible,” but work still needed to be done.
“When we started the capital campaign back in late 2003, the very viability of that building was questionable,” Forbes said. “It was imperiled, and the building is fine (now). The building is strong, stable, but there are things left to do.”
With the library experiencing its third executive director departure in the past 18 months, some borough officials are worried about the future of the capital campaign.
Lois Wholey resigned at the library's Jan. 9 board of trustees meeting to accept a job with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She joined Forbes (October 2011) and Diane Klinefelter (March 2012) as executive directors who have stepped down recently.
Executive directors at the library have the lead role in fundraising for the capital campaign, which raises money for the continued restoration and renovation of the library and music hall.
“When it comes to fundraising, continuity is extremely important,” Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek said. “The library relies heavily on their fundraising to sustain themselves, so it is a concern. My hope is that the third time is the charm — we'll get someone in there who will set some roots down and concentrate on solving some of the library's financial issues.”
Forbes said when she left, remaining renovation priorities included getting air conditioning and fixing plaster damage in the music hall, as well as addressing parking at the building. She said those priorities could have changed since her departure.
But the library's finances drew a lot of attention in 2012.
Carnegie Borough Council in April 2012 began withholding its monthly payments to the library and placing the money in escrow. The practice continued for three months before council began making payments again.
“They really were just struggling, and it looked like they were going to start cutting programs,” council President Rick D'Loss said. “We really didn't have the intention of punishing the patrons of the library, the residents and the children, so we turned the funding back on.”
Chris Brusallis, president of the library's board of trustees, said the library and music hall survived the funding freeze, but it was a “huge hit.”
“Hopefully, that's past us,” he said. “I don't want to open old wounds.”
Brusallis said fundraising was picking up in the last few months of 2012, beginning with the library's annual benefit in October. He said Wholey helped to raise more than $200,000 in the last few months of the year.
Wholey said the benefit exceeded her goals, especially with drawing new donors. She estimated about 80 percent of the donors were new.
“We did very well with new donors and new sponsors,” she said. “We also had new guests, people who had never been to the music hall before. So that was exciting.”
Wholey said the library finished 2012 “in the black” and said she had a good working relationship with borough officials and the board of trustees.
The board will pick up some of the fundraising as it searches for Wholey's replacement. Library director Erin Tipping and program coordinator Lynne Cochran will run the library and music hall, respectively.
But D'Loss said council has been worried about the library's finances “for more than a year,” and Wholey's departure doesn't change that.
“With having no executive director in there, the library's going to run just fine and the music hall's going to run just fine,” D'Loss said. “But the whole (idea) of finishing the capital cnampaign will be stalled until such time as they get another person in there who can raise money.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.