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Sewickley library deals with funding issues, seeks donations

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Use of the Sewickley Public Library is up, but leaders say funding levels also need to rise to keep patrons coming back.

Last year, the library racked up 3.2 million minutes of computer use, Director Carolyn Toth said.

But the library also found itself more than $11,000 over its $989,200 budget, library Board of Directors President Wayne Murphy said.

Murphy said he expects to go over budget by about $25,000 this year.

He cited funding decreases in 2010 as a result of a change in the way the Allegheny County Library Association — which distributes Regional Asset District, or RAD, money — gives money to its member libraries.

Sewickley library received $20,000 less in 2010.

Overall, however, the Regional Asset District has increased funding to the ACLA since 2011.

While the Quaker Valley School District funds nearly half of the library's annual budget — $497,000 for the current year — Murphy said the annual percent of the district's budget toward the library has decreased — from 1.38 percent in 2008-09 to 1.21 percent this year.

“I certainly know the pressures the school board is under,” he said. “I know the pressures the state is under. I know the situation with RAD and all of the other sources of funding.”

The library recorded more than 250,000 patron visits last year, and more than 25,000 people attended programs and events, Toth said.

With attendance numbers up and outside revenue sources down, Murphy said his focus for funding support is through personal giving.

“We have been working to build the local support,” he said.

Personal giving increased to about $42,000 last year — up from around $20,000 several years ago, Murphy said.

“Our intention is to get the personal giving number up into the $100,000 level,” he said.

Murphy said his focus also turns to capital and maintenance projects, which could include relocating the teen space.

“It's right in the front and it's noisy,” he said. “We have people there who still believe the library should be a quiet place. So we know we're going to have to do some layout of the library over time.”

Despite growing technological advances, Toth said libraries continue to be a focal point in communities.

“I always feel the need ... to remind everyone how valuable public libraries are to the community,” she said. “Everyone needs to remember that (libraries) support education, they preserve cultural heritage ... they act as a memory institution, they are communication centers, they provide training opportunities ... particularly for adults for emerging technologies.

“They are the focal point for community activities, meetings and a variety of social gatherings.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that a distribution formula change approved by the Allegheny County Library Association decreased the amount of money that Sewickley Public Library received 2010.

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