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West End branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh closes until spring for renovations

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 8:40 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Stacked and filled boxes of materials to be stored away from the West End Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on Saturday October 19, 2013. The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will close on October 19 until the spring of 2014 for renovations including air conditioning and an elevator.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Nora Bolla of Elliott tells of her childhood memories of the West End Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on the steps of the building on Saturday October 19, 2013. The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will close on October 19 until the spring of 2014 for renovations including air conditioning and an elevator.

Nora Bolla has been a faithful patron of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's West End branch for decades, since she was a child, and regularly brings clients from the social-service agency where she works to the library.

“She teaches me a lot here, how to get along in life,” said Karen Charles, 54, of the North Side, a client at Independence Professionals in Butler. “I'll miss it.”

It'll only be a temporary absence, however, because the 114-year-old library, which shut its doors Saturday, will reopen in the spring. It's undergoing renovations to add air conditioning and an elevator and to replace the slate roof, windows, heating and lighting systems.

Several times within the last year, the library closed on summer days because of heat.

Branch manager Mark Lee said the money will be well spent, as circulation of materials is on the rise, as is the number of visitors. Last year was its busiest in a decade and came three years after the branch was slated to close, but spared as a result of a public backlash.

“You worry about technology (making the library obsolete), but when you're a community asset, it doesn't matter,” Lee said.

The renovations will be paid for through the library's capital campaign funds, Lee said. An estimate was not available Saturday.

Lee said more than 36,000 people visited the branch in 2012. Through August, this year's traffic is up 12 percent over the same period last year.

“They've really built a strong community here,” said India Adams, 36, of the West End, a mother of four.

Patrons can pick up ordered items or return materials at the adjacent Library Support Center, 50 Alexander St., from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.

Staff will conduct children's story times on Tuesday mornings at the nearby Pittsburgh Musical Theatre building at South Main and Sanctus streets.

The West Pittsburgh History Club will meet at the theater building, and the library's Wise Walk program will meet at the Green Tree Park Walking Trail or the library support center meeting room if the weather is bad.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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