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Change afoot at Smithton Library

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:09 p.m.
Smithton librarian Janice Albright, a retired librarian from the Connellsville Area School District, looks at the 1935 Connellsville High School yearbook, one of several old yearbooks at the library.
Smithton librarian Janice Albright, a retired librarian from the Connellsville Area School District, looks at the 1935 Connellsville High School yearbook, one of several old yearbooks at the library.

A retired librarian from South Huntingdon is breathing new life into the small Smithton Library, adding Saturday hours, planning for a children's story hour and expanding the collection by offering DVDs and audio books for its patrons.

“Things are picking up. We're getting the word out to get people to come in” to the library, said Janice Albright, who retired after 36 years as a librarian in the Connellsville Area School District's elementary and high schools. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh.

“The board wanted a stronger connection to the community,” said Albright, who retired from the Connellsville Area School District in 2012.

One of the first changes she was made to the library inside the Smithton Borough Building was to offer Saturday hours. The library is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, but patrons have yet to take advantage of the library being open on the weekends, Albright said.

Albright is keeping the library's weekday hours the same – 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

She said she does not plan to change those library operating hours until the fall, when nightfall comes earlier.

“The people who are coming in are ones who have just moved in here,” said Albright, who began her duties as part-time library consultant on March 3.

The new librarian said she intends to have a children's story hour beginning in April and May, and conduct a summer reading program.

The children's story hours “encourage early literacy,” said Nancy Gresko, director of the Westmoreland Library Network, a coalition of 24 public libraries. A lot of a library's resources go toward the children's programming, Gresko said.

Albright also plans to catalog the audio books that are available and plans to have DVDs for circulation next month.

She said she still is in the process of getting a handle on the size of the collection and plans to “weed out” some of the collection, particularly where they are duplicate books. The library, however small, does not lack for books. It has children's books, adult fiction and nonfiction, large-print and “a nice selection of best sellers,” Albright said.

“They've got quite a few books from memorial donations,” Albright said.

The library has two computers and wireless fidelity, which allows computers and other electronic devices to connect to the Internet over a wireless signal.

Among its collection of historical books and yearbooks, mostly from the former South Huntingdon High School, is the 1935 Connellsville Coker yearbook once owned by a member of that class.

The last senior listed in the yearbook is John Woodruff, whose picture is accompanied by his signature and a handwritten notation, “University of Pittsburgh.” Woodruff, who would go on to win a gold medal winner in the 800-meter race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was listed first in the yearbook among members of a talented Connellsville track team that could set school records.

Although the library at the corner of Center and Second streets is small, it benefits from remaining a member of the Westmoreland Library Network, which allows Smithton Library patrons to have access to more than 788,000 items that are in the collection of those 24 libraries, Gresko said.

“Being part of the county system is really good,” Albright said.

From the perspective of the Westmoreland Library Network, “we're really happy” to resume the library network service, Gresko said.

Albright is the only person paid by the Smithton Library Board and she is a private consultant, rather than an employee, said William Doney, president of the library board.

Prior to hiring Albright as a consultant in February, the library had operated with the help of volunteers and still has volunteers, Doney said.

Prior to being hired as the Smithon Library consultant, Albright volunteered her services at the Sewickley Township Public Library in Herminie. While at the Sewickley library, she learned about the Smithton Library's need for a consultant. The Smithton Library, which is closer to her home, previously had consultants that took other jobs, Albright said.

The library is in the process of applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Doney said. With the tax-exempt status, commonly referred to as a charitable organization, corporations can donate money to the library and get a tax deduction, Doney said.

One of the challenges she faces is raising money. Albright said she hopes to sell books that are currently in storage, at an upcoming book sale to raise money for the library.

With the town's location along the Youghiogheny River and its connection by bridge to the Great Allegheny Passage, the recreation trail connecting Pittsburgh with Cumberland, Md., “Smithton has lot to offer. I would like a good library to be in there” as one of Smithton's attributes, Albright said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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