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Connellsville's Carnegie Free Library cafe may be open after the new year

| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 5:03 p.m.

With the recent approval of the Connellsville Planning Commission, efforts are proceeding to open a cafe for patrons of the Carnegie Free Library.

Chris Wallander, library board member who is spearheading the project, is awaiting county approval. She hopes to open the cafe soon after the new year.

Recent state funding cuts and a budget deficit have led the board to consider ideas to raise money for the library, Wallander and library director Casey Sirochman said.

“The building needs work. The cost of everything keeps going up,” Sirochman said.

“Everybody kind of had the idea. Casey thought of it, I thought of it,” Wallander said.

She said she mentioned the need to raise funds for the project to two area business owners, who together donated $10,000 to make it happen.

A first-floor room previously used to house newspapers, magazines and large print books will be used for the cafe.

Connellsville's Lyndan Designs was hired to perform the cabinetry, flooring, plumbing and electrical work.

“We hope to get started this month,” Wallander said.

Brass lights with globes, stored in the library's basement, will be refurbished by Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center students and hung in the cafe, Wallander said.

Volunteers from the Friends of the Library will staff the cafe, she said.

Menu plans include a panini, a soup and a dessert of the day.

The staff will prepare the food on-site, and grind and sell specialty coffee.

“We all have good soup recipes. We are just going to really see how it goes,” Wallander said.

“I'm hoping to open by the end of January, early February, while it's cold. Then in the summer, we can sell iced coffee,” she said.

Cafe planners hope the concept will attract cyclists from the nearby Yough River Trail, Wallander said.

Changes are taking place throughout the library, Wallander and Sirochman noted.

The building's front door restoration is being funded through private donations and a grant, Wallander said. “We had high school classes, families donate,” she said.

Those who contributed $500 or more will be listed on a plaque near the door, Wallander said.

The Connellsville Historical Museum and a teen lounge/study area are expected to open early next year.

The cafe is part of the library's effort, Wallander said, “to change its vision.”

“I love books,” the retired school librarian said. “But we can't stay stagnant.”

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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