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West Newton library board considers fundraising campaign

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

West Newton's library board may launch a campaign to raise money to find a new home for the community's library – likely a larger building in the borough's downtown district, library officials said.

The library board has had preliminary discussions about conducting a fundraising campaign, but has not decided whether to undertake the initiative, said Cheryl Russell, president of the nine-member library board. The board would have to study the matter and do a lot of preparation before conducting a fundraising campaign, Russell said.

“We would like to have more space for expansion. It we get new space, it would be more of a modern library, with computer labs and meeting areas,” Russell said.

The library board has discussed the possibility of purchasing a building or constructing a building to house the library Russell said. The board could consider moving into one of the vacant buildings in downtown West Newton, Russell said.

The board has not decided how much money it needs to raise. A former West Newton resident has offered her expertise in conducting a fundraising campaign, said Russell, who declined to reveal the identity of the woman.

The library has conducted fundraisers, but they are on a much smaller scale than one needed for a new building, Russell said.

“A project like this really entails a lot of marketing and research,” Russell said.

The borough owns the two-story building that houses the library at 124 S. Water St., and maintains the brick structure. But, the size of the building limits the programming that the library can conduct.

“We're not able to accommodate what we want to do,” said Patty Medsger, library board member.

Mon Valley Initiative, a nonprofit community development organization based in Homestead, has offered to assist in giving the library board direction in finding a new home for the library, Russell said.

“We could work on market strategies with them,” said Patrick Shattuck, Mon Valley Initiative's real estate director.

Mon Valley Initiative has told the library board how it could help by having a feasibility study conducted, using a variety of consultants that would consider building design and cost, operating a library and how it fits into the future for the library, Shattuck said. A feasibility study would cost approximately $7,000, but such a study is necessary in order for the library board to seek grants from foundations or government, Shattuck said.

The library board is considering a fundraising campaign after having reopened the West Newton Library in February.

The West Newton Woman's Club, which operated the library for more than 70 years, closed the library in May 2012 because of a lack of interest among its members and a lack of money to maintain the operations.

The library has reopened without a paid staff and is not eligible for state funding. It is not part of the Westmoreland Library Network, which allows patrons to borrow books and other materials from other county libraries.

Still, the library is open 18 hours a week, spread over four days, with an all-volunteer staff. It has received donations from the community to continue operations, Russell said.

“The town has been backing us. We're excited about it and we think everything looks all positive,” Russell said.

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

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