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Officials: New tax provided boost to Carnegie library system

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Four years since they considered closing branches to save money, officials with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh said they are expanding hours across the system and renovating branches once slated to shut.

Library officials gave an update on the projects on Wednesday night at a community forum in the North Side branch.

A second community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the South Side branch on East Carson Street.

Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of the Carnegie system, said the .25-mill library tax voters approved in 2011 is boosting operations.

The tax brought in $3 million last year and is on track to bring in $3.9 million this year, Cooper said. The revenue has helped finance efforts to provide more outreach to preschools, the addition of laptops and dedicated teen services in libraries, she said.

It also helped fund longer hours, increasing total operating hours in the system's 18 branches from 748.5 hours a week in 2011 to 945.5 hours a week this year.

The library system's $29.6 million budget is funded largely through a combination of revenue from the Allegheny County Regional Asset District, which accounted for $19.1 million this year, $3.9 million from the library tax and a $3.3 million state subsidy.

Cooper said the library is weighing a campaign to grow its $12 million endowment.

She said the West End Branch will close in mid-October to begin renovations that will include the installation of an elevator and air conditioning.

At the same time, renovations will continue on a former bank building that will house the Hazelwood branch once work is done this spring.

“It's bigger, it's going to double our space, and the Heinz Endowments is picking up a lot of the costs. We expect it will be finished, and we'll move in the spring, and we don't need to close in the meantime,” Cooper said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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