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Refurbished West End library unveiled

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 1:50 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Children's Specialist Jamie Collett reconnects with Asa Kalk-Schuette, 4, of Bellevue, when he came back to see the reopening of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh West End branch Saturday, May 17, 2014. Asa used to live in the area and take part in children's acativities with Jamie.

Ryan and Nicole Tepper watched as their son Hudson, 5, stared intently at a computer screen on Saturday during a celebration for the newly refurbished Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's West End branch.

“You can breathe in here,” said Nicole Tepper, who lives nearby along Steuben Street. “It's so open. I can't believe how they opened up such a small space.”

More than 100 people, including library, city and local leaders, marked the rebirth of the 115-year-old Wabash Street library branch with a celebration that included music from the Pittsburgh Musical Theater,

“This is a symbol of hope and opportunity,” said Mary Frances Cooper, the library system's president and director. The investment in the branch “tells everyone who lives here, everyone who passes by, this is a community that matters.”

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said she is grateful for the library's presence because there are no recreation programs in her district, which includes the West End.

The $1.7 million construction project that kept the library closed since October included refurbishing windows, replacing the slate roof, adding air conditioning and replacing utility systems, adding an exterior elevator and cleaning the exterior. Crews moved the service desk to the rear of the first floor, so that visitors have more room when they walk into the library.

The library's capital campaign funds paid for the improvements.

Had the library been open throughout 2013, branch manager Mark Lee said, he believed there would have been about 40,000 patrons. He hopes for even stronger numbers this year with all the improvements.

Library workers showed off improvements to the children's section, while senior librarian Wesley Roberts demonstrated a 3-D printer, building several plastic nut-and-bolt combinations. Roberts joked that he was going to print out a doorstop for the library's front door.

Mark Woda, 43, of Elliott used one computer to check numbers on more than 15 plastic pop bottle caps to see if he had won any prizes. He had a stack of DVDs to check out, including television shows “The Newsroom” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

“For the past five or six months, it's been very much an inconvenience to use another one of the branches,” Woda said. “This is great to have it back open.”

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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