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Lack of Ross users could signal end of Bookmobile stop

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The mobile library that sets up shop in the parking lot of the North Hills Village shopping center might make its last stop in Ross Township at the end of 2014, though Northland Public Library officials are looking for better ways to serve Ross residents.

The library might discontinue Bookmobile service in Ross because of too-low usage and high operating costs, Northland director Amy Steele said.

“We're looking at other ways we can serve Ross residents,” Steele told Ross commissioners at their Aug. 18 meeting.

The Bookmobile is a bus with about 2,500 library items that can be checked out and is operated by the Allegheny County Library Association.

This year, it is costing Northland $8,175 for the weekly stops from noon to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Santina Balestreire, Northland's director of marketing and communications, said that in a six-week period in July and August, only 21 patrons used the Bookmobile, and only 10 of them were Ross Township residents. Five of those 10 used the Bookmobile more than once.

Others came from neighborhoods in Pittsburgh's North Side, Ben Avon and West View, which are not communities served by the Northland Public Library.

“This is not a justified cost, given the fact that we're really not seeing residents of Ross,” Commissioner Dan DeMarco, who also serves on the Northland Library Board, said.

Other commissioners said they were worried about the reduced service.

“So is this is a reduction of services and a continuation of contribution?” Commissioner Steve Korbel asked, once he was told that Ross would not decrease its annual contribution of $438,000 to Northland.

Steele said that if the service is eliminated, the roughly $8,000 that would have been spent on the Bookmobile stop instead would be used for outreach programming in Ross that includes participation in the township's Community Day and visits to elementary schools and child-care centers.

Steele said that use of the Bookmobile in Marshall Township, where it stops from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Fridays at Marshall Elementary School, also is declining, though not as much as at the Ross stop, and it will continue.

Balestreire said that library officials also hope to move a vending-machine-style mobile library in the Ross Township Municipal Center to a more convenient and visible place.

Since January, 348 items have been circulated through the machine, Balestreire said.

Northland is in McCandless but also serves Ross, Marshall, Bradford Woods and Franklin Park.

Marilyn Jenkins, executive director of the Allegheny County Library Association, said outreach can be a challenge when one library serves several municipalities.

“It's always hard if you serve a large area or a large population,” Jenkins said.

Northland staff will have a table set up at the Ross municipal center from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 15 with information on the library's new e-collection and different programming, as well as giveaways and games.

There also will be a table set up at the Ross Township Community Day on Sept. 20.

Ross Commissioner Grace Stanko said she has fond memories of standing in line outside a library to get the newest Nancy Drew book.

“Unfortunately, that line isn't there anymore,” Steele said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at or at 724-772-6353.

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