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Donora Public Library full of history, small-town charm

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:59 p.m.
Some of the many books offered at the Donora Public Library are displayed. Stacy Wolford/The Valley Independent
The Donora Public Library has several computers for the members to use. Stacy Wolford/The Valley Independent
Judy Thomas, administrative assistant at the Donora Public Library shows off one of the hand puppets used during story time in the library's newly renovated lower level. Stacy Wolford/The Valley Independent

A community resource facility since 1930, the Donora Public Library recently renovated space to accommodate special events and activities for its patrons and neighbors.

Director Donnis Headley says the renovations to the lower level were completed in November. The space includes new lighting, heating and air conditioning and a small kitchen equipped with a refrigerator. She says the area also features smaller rooms partitioned for office-space rental.

“It's been an ongoing plan for several years that has finally come to fruition,” Headley says. “It's intended for a rental space but also gives us needed space for programs that attract large crowds here at the library.”

The director says the refurbished space is carpeted, and there are tables and chairs available to suit the needs of different groups. The area is accessible from the exterior of the building.

Headley says the lower level had been used as a storage area.

She says the facility is available for rent for parties, reunions, showers and other events accommodating up to small groups, preferably nonalcoholic events.

Dedicated in October 1996, the library is at 510 Meldon Ave.

It was formerly housed at the Tri-Plant Club until 1946, when the collection was relocated to the Community Center Building until the new facility was built.

Headley says the library hosts a Knit and Crochet Group that meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month.

“It's open to anyone who wants to come and knit and crochet or to learn how,” Headley says. The sessions are facilitated by an “extremely talented” Christine Williamson. “We have (participants) as young as grade school. They love making chains.”

Headley says the knit and crochet enthusiasts share ideas, offer suggestions and learn tips.

The library serves Donora and Finleyville boroughs and Union, Carroll and Nottingham townships. It is an integral part of the area's rich history and works to preserve the steel-mill heritage of the river town.

The director says one of the more fascinating gatherings in past years was a history group that discussed happenings around the town of Donora and surrounding areas. One session included a movie clip of a film reportedly made in Donora in the 1930s.

“It was a core group mostly of people who have lived here all or most of their lives,” Headley says. “They could recite every store that was on every street and all the things the people carried in the stores and who ran them. It was really neat. It's something I'd like to see start again.”

In June, the Donora Historical Society hosted a program at the library that highlighted the history and evolution of the former St. Dominic Catholic Church.

Headley says Saturday movies, primarily geared for children, are expected to start showing again once a non-conflicting schedule can be arranged with a nearby library center.

A summer reading program is held each year, and a weekly story hour for preschoolers is expected to resume soon.

The library is open from noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Internet, Microsoft Word, Excel and Access PA Power Library are available to library patrons. To use a computer, patrons must present their library card.

“We have the Overdrive downloads that allow patrons to access books for e-readers for all kinds of devices,” Headley says. You need to come into the library the first time, then you can access the books that are available online from home by going through the Donora Library website (www.donorapubliclibrary.org.)

A magnifying reader machine is available in the library's Lignelli History Room for patrons with low vision, and a state-of-the-art microfilm reader is on site, with articles from Donora newspapers from 1905 through the 1970s on microfilm. The articles can be printed, saved to a jump drive or burned to a CD. The room honors Donora Mayor John Lignelli.

The library is taking reservations for help with income tax-return preparations with volunteers from the AARP.

“We are always interested in new ideas for programs,” Headley says. “We have a very small staff, and I'm always welcoming input from others about what things they would like to do.”

Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer.

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