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Open house to show off Carnegie library renovations

| Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, 6:23 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Some work at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie is left to be done, before an open house on Oct. 25 to celebrate renovations. The library is shown on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
An open house is scheduled on Oct. 25 to mark the completion of renovations to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie. The library is shown on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Some work if left to be done in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, shown Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. An open house to celebrate renovations is scheduled Oct. 25.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
The Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie shown Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.

The bank account of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie fell to just $136 in the 1980s.

“The money just ran out decades ago. The endowment just ran out,” said Maggie Forbes, executive director of the library, a National Historic Landmark.

Forbes has since overseen the rebuilding of that account and an $8 million renovation of the library and its facilities that came to an end recently with completion of work at the library itself. Earlier projects included renovations to the music hall and a neglected Civil War veterans post.

Renovations will be showcased at an open house on Sunday, after the library reopens in its main first-floor space. Part of the collection has been made available in recent months in a basement space, but the library will be closed through Saturday to allow staff to move books and other items back into place.

Forbes describes the 1901 Beaux Arts-style building as “a mix of grand and homey.”

Though it is structurally sound and was well built, the library building underwent minimal repairs during its first century, she said. Until the latest renovations began in May, painted-over duct tape held up crumbling plaster on parts of the library's walls and ceilings.

“It now looks the way it is supposed to look. It is a gorgeous regional landmark,” Forbes said.

The biggest difference in the library with the latest changes is lighting, said library director Diane Klinefelter.

“It was very dark in the building before. They were not big on electricity in 1901. There are no longer extension cords running all over the place,” she said.

Renovations don't change the structural appearance of the building, Klinefelter said. There are sprinklers and new carpeting, and the wood has been refinished.

A reading area has been established.

The latest library renovations were funded with a $200,000 grant from the Allegheny Foundation, a $180,401 grant from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and a $50,000 grant from PPG Industries Foundation, as well as money from ongoing fundraising.

The library started its capital campaign in 2003.

In subsequent years, a rundown gym was converted to a multipurpose programming space. The building has been weatherproofed and made handicap-accessible with an elevator and other features. Seats in the music hall were replaced with more comfortable ones, and air conditioning was added.

The Civil War room was restored in 2010 after sitting vacant for about 70 years. The Captain Thomas Espy Post 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic served local Civil War veterans and is the best-preserved and most intact GAR post in the United States, Forbes said.

Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944.

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