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Trafford library cut off from county network

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

Because of its “financial insolvency,” the Trafford Community Public Library was cut off from the Internet database for the Westmoreland County Federated Library System last week, a system official said.

The move by the county system means that library patrons no longer will be able to request that materials from the 24 other libraries in the Westmoreland Library Network be delivered to Trafford to be checked out.

The seven-member county board voted at its Sept. 26 meeting to sever the Trafford library's access to its computer network because it determined Trafford no longer met certain conditions for being a state-aided library, including appropriate staffing and hours, executive director Nancy Gresko said.

The part-time director for the Trafford library hasn't been paid for August and hasn't worked since Aug. 31. Meanwhile, the library's board members have scheduled an Oct. 16 meeting in which they might consider closing the facility.

Gresko said the library is in “an extremely unstable position” because of apparent debt and a lack of funding to remain open.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” she said. “It's very hard. We like to see libraries open, but the current circumstances made it impossible to continue that relationship.”

The Trafford library remains a member of the county system, but any employees or volunteers won't have access to the technology linking most of the buildings on a shared network. Small libraries in Avonmore and Hyde Park that essentially function as reading rooms also are not included in the computer network, Gresko said.

“We don't close libraries,” she said. “They can stay open in any form they want.”

Trafford library board president Tom Puckey called the county board's decision “devastating.” The library now will have to resort to an antiquated card-catalog system to track materials as they are borrowed and returned, he said.

“Without that system that the county has, you're going back to the 20th century, and it's not feasible to have a library like that anymore,” Puckey said.

The county's vote is the latest blow to hit the library, which, Puckey said last month, was down to its last few hundreds of dollars in a 2012 budget of about $19,000. He has estimated the library would need between $1,500 and $3,000 a month to stay open.

Trafford Council, which has budgeted $1,000 a year for the library for several years, said it won't be able to give the money this year because of overspending on the new public-safety building.

Meanwhile, in Penn Township, trustees of the Penn Area Library said they don't think they have the resources to consider making the Trafford library a branch.

Puckey said it's not looking good for the library's prospects for staying open. He said he's not even optimistic the library will be able to maintain its posted hours until the Oct. 16 meeting.

“It's just going downhill real fast,” Puckey said.

Attempts to reach other Trafford library board members for comment were unsuccessful.

Some library members and volunteers have made a last-ditch effort to save the facility by starting a petition on change.org and posting signs outside the library encouraging residents to donate money.

As of Oct. 1, 40 people signed the petition, which states the library has been “an essential resource within our community for over 52 years.”

Even if the library board decides to close, council doesn't intend to evict the library as a tenant in the municipal complex, Council President Rich Laird said. Council has no other plans for the space.

“We're not going to throw them out of there,” Laird said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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