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Carnegie library counting on Civil War room as big attraction in 2014

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
File photo
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, middle, and Rep. Nick Kotik, right, stand onstage at the music hall with Executive Director Maggie Forbes, left, to announce a gift of $500,000 to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie on Friday evening, May 15 2009.
File photo
Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall Executive Director Maggie Forbes, left, and State Rep. Nick Kotik, right, size up young patrons against the height of a mock check in the amount of $478,761 on Thursday morning, Feb. 28 2008, at the library in Carnegie. The money is coming from a Keystone Grant.

The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall ended 2013 on a high note by exceeding fund-raising expectations, and the historic center is poised to continue that success this year, officials said.

“In four months, the community was remarkably generous,” said Maggie Forbes, who returned to the library as its executive director in August.

The library has received more than $140,000 in donations since she came back, said Forbes, who previously led the hilltop, Italianite-style center in Carnegie from 2003 to 2011. Fund-raising in general has picked up, she said, and that needs to continue.

“We need to broaden that and deepen that and just find ways to make the library and music hall completely sustainable,” Forbes said.

In addition to many individual donations, the 113-year-old library also received two grants for general expenses: $25,000 from the Jack Buncher Foundation and $20,000 from the Laurel Foundation. The Massey Charitable Trust contributed $10,000 so that Diane Kleinfelter, a former library director, could be hired as curator for the second-floor Civil War room.

The room filled with artifacts, which once housed the Capt. Thomas Epsy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans group, will be one of the library's stars of 2014, Forbes said.

“The Civil War room is our national treasure, but those are only words until it is actually recognized nationally as a treasure,” she said.

Kleinfelter, who starts her new position this month, said she'll focus on outreach and exposure for the room.

“There are so many people, even locally, that don't know about it,” she said. “I will really be focusing on trying to bring regional – as well as even national – attention to the room.”

Forbes said she wants to highlight the room this year, in order to pull out all the stops in 2015 – the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's death.

“As beautiful as the whole building is, this is the one-of-a-kind-in-the-country thing,” she said. “We need to really lay the groundwork for it.”

Forbes said she also wants to continue to highlight the music hall, patterned after Carnegie Hall in New York City. Resident companies who perform at the hall – Stage 62 and the Carnegie Performing Arts Center – often sell out, she said, and she hopes upgrades to the stage and hall will bring in new productions.

She also hopes to use the studio space in the library basement more often.

“It is a wonderful space, and it is underutilized,” she said. “Part of it is that we want to make people aware that it can be used for community events.”

The space is multi-functional, and could host anything from a birthday party to a concert series.

Forbes helped to raise $7.5 million to restore the center and return it to financial stability during her previous stint there. She hopes to reignite capital improvements there this year, including lightning, plaster and paint work in the library and air conditioning in the music hall.

“I think we're in a position to do that,” she said, although spending hasn't been determined. “It's clear we're in a much healthier place than we were.”

The goal, she said, is to bring more people to the library and show that it has something for everyone.

“The more people we get in the building, the more they discover its charms and the more they discover Carnegie's charms,” she said. “Carnegie is changing, and we like being a part of that.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

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