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Turning the page on 110 years

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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The Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville is celebrating its 110th birthday.

Sundays in Connellsville used to mean girls would put on their most graceful dress and head to the library to socialize with boys.“Girls finally caught on that boys were here, so they started coming,” said Casey Sirochman, director of the Carnegie Free Library. “It was the place to come because there was no entertainment. Really, there was nothing else to do.”

That was 100 years ago, but fast forward to today, Sirochman is determined to compete with the Internet and electronic books to make the library the hub of the community it was in 1903.

This Sunday, the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville will celebrate its 110th birthday. The library plans to have 110 minutes of reading the written word, etiquette classes from yesteryear, children's story time and live music.

It will also give the library the opportunity to show off new features that Sirochman believes will attract people to the library.“One thing we're doing here is we're trying to go back to Carnegie's vision to be the hub of the community,” Sirochman said. To fulfill that mission, the library added a mezzanine where teens hang out and play video games, offers yoga classes in its auditorium and GED classes in a basement classroom, expanded a computer lab and will soon open a cafe and local-interest museum.“There's been some major updates inside,” she said. “It's been a labor of love.”When the library first opened, about 2,100 books were part of the collection. The buzz around town was the list of new arrivals that the newspaper printed every week, Sirochman said.

In 1957, 70,000 books were added to the collection. After an extensive weeding process, the collection was fine-tuned to 40,000 books. Although it was difficult for Sirochman to remove books from the collection, she said it was necessary when she found a “Feminism of the 1960s” book on the shelf in 2012.

The library is independent and counts on state, county and local funding, as well as donations, to keep it operating. Last year, Sirochman said the library's board was able to cut its deficit from about $70,000 to $50,000.She said she hopes people will be inclined to make donations when they see the improvements.

“The assumption in 1903 was that Connellsville would support this library,” she said. “A lot of donations keep it running. Local support is going to sustain the library.”

Last year, 8,722 people had library cards and 21,301 books were checked out.

In 1903, it was illegal for people to check books out on Sundays, but nowadays, Sirochman encourages people to stop in and check books out any day.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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