Catalog of Connellsville library's books can be viewed online

| Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, 2:41 a.m.

Web surfers who enjoy reading can now search the book collection of Carnegie Free Library from the comfort of their homes or laptops.

During the past year, tens of thousands of books were sorted and updated; currently the Connellsville library has more than 45,000 volumes available. Most of the books have been bar-coded and are now online at Simply click on “catalog” to search the files.

Volunteers needed

“We're almost caught up, but we sure could use volunteer help to finish the final few thousand books that haven't been bar-coded,” said head librarian Casey Sirochman, noting that the library has only five staff members. “The coding process isn't difficult to learn but it's tedious.”

Stickers for the bar-coding were donated by Anita Noel, local sales rep for DNP IMS America Corporation.

“We really appreciated Anita's generosity. It saved us a ton of money,” Sirochman said.

The online catalog follows the Dewey Decimal Classification system, just like the card catalog did. “We were one of the last state-funded libraries in Pennsylvania to still be using the paper card catalogs.”

In addition to state aid, the library receives an annual $30,000 stipend from the City of Connellsville; the library's charter stipulates that it must be available free of charge to the public. That was mandated by steel magnate / philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose foundation sponsored more than 2,500 public libraries worldwide in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Card catalog from '20s

The wooden cabinets that contained Connellsville's card catalog are the library's original ones.

“No one knows for sure, but it is believed that they date back to the 1920s,” said Sirochman, who is only the 10th head librarian at the Connellsville library, which will celebrate its 110th anniversary in 2013.

Sirochman recently marked her first anniversary on the job — a year that was marked with increased use by children, students and adults. She was hired in 2011 after the death of Julia Allen, who had served as head librarian for more than 30 years.

“We've had a lot of cooperation from the local media,” Sirochman said. “They've provided the library with excellent publicity for our events.”

Sirochman also writes a library column that runs occasionally in the Daily Courier.

A native of Smock, Sirochman lives in Uniontown with her husband and their toddler son. She earned a master's degree in library information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh and is well-versed in the latest library technology.

Bringing Carnegie Free Library into the computer age was a challenge but one that she welcomed. While she embraces technology, Sirochman is confident that the printed word won't disappear any time soon.

Books will stay

“Books aren't going anywhere for a long, long time,” she said, pointing out that libraries contain tens of thousands of books and research materials that are not available online — and won't be for many years and possibly never. “I don't think the book era will end in my lifetime.”

Connellsville's card catalog officially went online on Aug. 22. “We hope it will encourage people to search for books — especially our newest books — from the comfort of their homes.”

Sirochman, struggling with a tight budget, doggedly continues her efforts to update the library's book collection.

After operating costs, only about $8,000 was available to purchase books in 2012. “That's just a drop in the bucket, but we are trying,” she said.

Sirochman thanked all who purchase books in memory of loved ones, as well as those who donate books.

Donations appreciated

“We only accept relevant books that were published in 2008 or later,” she explained.

But donors should feel free to give older volumes, too.

“Those are donated to the FRIENDS of the library,” Sirochman explained. The volunteer FRIENDS group hosts a huge book sale twice a year to benefit the library.

Its latest sale is fast approaching. It is scheduled for Nov. 3, in Carnegie Free Library's basement, where the FRIENDS have sorted thousands of books for the enjoyment of readers.

Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.

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