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Connellsville's Carnegie Free Library prepares for 110th anniversary celebration

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About the library

Carnegie Free Library opened its doors on May 1, 1903, thanks to the generosity of Andrew Carnegie, who believed that education is the cornerstone of success.

This was a one-time gift with the promise from Connellsville that the borough would provide for the continued upkeep of the building.

At that time, Connellsville was the leading coke producer in the world and immigrants were flocking here to work in the mines and coke works. Built of sandstone in the Italianate manner, the building housed books and magazines and offered early patrons both educational and recreational reading, as well as musical evenings in the second floor auditorium.

Over the years, the building has had few external changes. In the late 1960s a basement stacks area was added, and a mezzanine tier in the 1970s. The library was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and the board of directors, with the help of the community, has made a concerted effort to maintain the structure. Close to a decade ago, one room on the main level of the Library was restored to be the official Reference Room, now The Gettys Room, to its 1903 appearance.

Some more recent changes have been remodeling and restoration of the children's area lighting, a fresh coat of paint has been added to several areas, and a section of the basement has been made into a classroom area.

The library has wireless Internet available to the public, and it is working to complete a café, teen area, and historical museum.

The library catalog of more than 35,000 volumes, magazines, DVDs, audio materials is now available to search online. In addition to several thousand e-books and audio books available for downloading online.

By Nancy Henry
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

On May 1, 1903, the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville opened its doors.

The Carnegie Free Library was built on land that was formerly the Connell Cemetery. The location was across from the Fourth Ward School. It took two years to construct.

On Sunday, the library will celebrate its 110th birthday bash.

The celebration will begin at noon with a grand opening ribbon cutting and dedication of the new doors. The doors have been replaced and appear as they did 110 years ago. The framing above the doors, in the shape of an arch, has also been restored. The project was completed through the efforts of community donations and from the FRIENDS of the Connellsville Carnegie Free Library.

The celebration will continue until 6 p.m. with events throughout the day.

At 12:30 p.m., 110 minutes of “reading the written word” will be presented. Librarian Casey Sirochman will begin the event by reading the history of the library followed by Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School students who have volunteered to read for 110 consecutive minutes from literary works that date from 1903 (110 years ago).

Readers are:

• 12:41–12:52 p.m., Julia Crucio, “Ways and Means,” an excerpt from “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” by Alice Caldwell Hegan.

• 12:52–1:03 p.m., Morgan DeWitt, an excerpt from “Martin Eden” by Jack London.

• 1:03–1:14 p.m., Kaylee Ermine, excerpt from “The Way of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler.

• 1:14 1:25 p.m., Nick Speeney, “Enter the Man,” an excerpt from “The Virginian” by Owen Wister.

• 1:25–1:36 p.m., Mario Ruggieri, “The Invalid's Story,” an excerpt from “The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain.”

• 1:36–1:47 p.m., Patrick Grundy, “The Pit” by Frank Norris.

• 1:47–1:58 p.m., Abbey Sitko, “The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle,” an excerpt from “Tales from Beatrix Potter.”

• 1:58–2:09 p.m., Liz Camele, “The Tailor of Gloucester,” an excerpt from “Tales from Beatrix Potter.”

• 2:09–2:20 p.m., Gabi Omatick, “A Ghost Story,” an excerpt from “The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain.”

Marian Cadwallader, Geibel teacher, will read musings from the 1903 Daily Courier in between the literary readings.

“The students were eager to volunteer for this anniversary celebration. They are excited to be a part of this special event. I think the Carnegie Free Library is one of the treasures of our small town,” said Cadwallader.

Mother May I will present free etiquette classes in the library classroom, adult instruction will be 1-2 p.m., teen instruction will be from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

“Time-honored behaviors that still resonate loud and all too clear today are presented in the etiquette classes. We provide the ‘know how' that will result in personal success that can be felt and shared,” said Demetria Pappas of Mother May I.

The organization is based in Pittsburgh and generally does classes for corporations like Health America, Pittsburgh Propelled School District, the Chartiers Valley School district, the Western Pennsylvania Girl Scout Association, etc.

“We have a very strong mission about behaving properly and extending that to your children. Society has diminished in its use of manners. Every day we see examples of what people should have done and what they did not do. It is very unfortunate. In our society bad behavior gets rewarded by attention.”

Simple and basic techniques will be discussed.

“There was a time when we were generally learning manners in home economics class as we were growing up. That has been removed from education for decades and so we are now dealing with a society who needs to learn their manners and behaviors from their parents and that's not happening. The parents, who need to be the role models, did not learn good manners,” Pappas said.

Parents are encouraged to bring children to the program as long as they are 13 years of age or older.

The company and program were developed by Pappas and Lisa Iadicicco, graduates of Purdue University. More information is available at

Children's Story Time will take place 3-4 p.m. in the Kid's Area on the Main Floor. Music selections by Talbot and Maddox Maruca, daughters of Matt and Erin Maruca of Connellsville, will be presented in the auditorium 4-6 p.m. Talbot plays the violin and Maddox plays the cello. Refreshments and library tours will also be available.

The FRIENDS of Carnegie Free Library will sponsor refreshments and the special birthday cake is being donated by Cori Szabo.

“Sunday's activities will be honoring the 110th birthday of this great edifice. We will dedicate the new doors that have recently been restored. We have a new teen area, new carpet in the children's area and a new museum. All within the last year. We will be doing more renovations in the library,” said John Malone, president of the board of directors.

The Connellsville Area Historical Society members will be available to answer genealogical or historical questions. Members will be in their new office in the Connell Room where the rare and historical books are located.

Connellsville Area Historical Museum will be open to the public for its inaugural public viewing, said Sirochman.

This local historical museum was made possible through collaborative efforts of the Connellsville Area Historical Society and the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville. The funding for the creation of this museum was made possible through the Laurel Highlands Visitor's Bureau Tourism Grant Program, Seed Award from the Sprout Fund of Pittsburgh, and the Community Foundation of Fayette County Growth Fund.

Members of the library board in addition to Malone are: Don Grenaldo, vice president; Sharon Rendine, secretary; Lewis Falton, treasurer; William Stoots, Deborah Rudnik, Judith Keller, David Petrone, Christine Wallander, Tim Witt, Susan Jane Sandusky, Thomas E. Dolde, Gary Wandel and John Maddas. Library employees are Sirochman; Judy Takoch, children's librarian; Beverley Motyka, inter-library loan, collection development and genealogical research; Shirley Rosenberger, circulation and programming and Ron Fosbrink, circulation.

The library will be closed Saturday in preparation for Sunday's celebration. For more information, visit, the Facebook page or call 724-628-1380.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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