Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library 'lighting path to literacy' for 80 years
Not so long ago, libraries served as an extension of that old proverb about children — places to be seen, but not heard. Hence, the stereotypical depiction of librarians with a finger raised to their lips, hissing a stern “shhh.”
Not so at libraries today, including the Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library. Officials there are planning 80th anniversary events for 2019 and celebrating a recent grant for energy upgrades to the 50-year-old building.
Shelves in a new children’s area brim with books and games. Patrons can access computers for research or job hunting.
“It’s a community center and an information center,” library director Mary Kaufman said. “We are morphing into what’s next, and we are doing all of that with no increases in funding, state or federal.”
State funding for libraries, she noted, was cut in 2003 from $75 million to $50 million and has remained unchanged for 15 years.
She and Kathleen M. Ceroni, library board of directors’ president, proudly pointed out facility furnishings donated or purchased at yard sales.
The library offers the public Sunday Salons, popular escape room adventures, stargazing at Greenlick Run Lake , book and game clubs.
Following a West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund grant for $6,500 for a comprehensive energy audit, the fund also awarded the library a $58,000 grant to replace its heating, ventilation and air conditioning, water heater and outdoor lighting with more efficient models, planned for summer completion.
“The energy savings … will help reduce the library’s overall operating costs, which is crucial for a small, nonprofit organization,” fund director Joel Morrison said in a release.
“We were very blessed. To raise $60,000 would have taken all of our energy for a year,” Kaufman says.
According to the borough’s history, the library arose from a February 1938 public meeting of the Junior Women’s Club of Mt. Pleasant and other citizens convened to establish bylaws and committees.
“What they had to do was sell it to the community. Most of the books originally were donated,” Ceroni said.
A room in the former First Ward school building housed the original library. The current facility was dedicated Jan. 11, 1970.
“As we move into 2019, we are celebrating 80 years in service to Mt. Pleasant and now, the township,” she said.
As part of the countywide Westmoreland Library Network system, the library aids in serving nearly 116,000 library card holders, or one in every three county residents. Combined, the network’s patrons last year checked out 1.1 million books, movies, electronic books and audios; 117,000 visitors used the network’s free internet service; and nearly 60,000 children, 3,000 teens and 18,000 adults attended a total of 4,600 programs, according to the network.
Ceroni, a retired teacher, calls Mt. Pleasant her hometown. She sees the library as a “stable place” where residents of a small town can socialize.
”I’m using the words ‘gathering place.’ It’s part of our mission,” she said.
“We call libraries the ‘third place. ’ The first place is the home you have with your family. The second place is your work family, where you spend a lot of your day. The third place is the library, with classes and all ages welcome. This is one of the last places that you are not expected to shell out money,” Kaufman added.
Kaufman recently spoke before the board of Westmoreland County Commissioners, reminding them that 15,000 county constituents are served through the library.
“When I have a captive audience, I always point out that libraries are not buildings with books,” Kaufman said.
Like other libraries, she noted, the building at 120 S. Church St. serves as mobile office, after-school hangout, a source of computer training and a site for community programming.
“Some of our more unique offerings this year included new chair yoga classes, belly dancing for fun and fitness, an appearance by President Grant , a dinner with Edgar Allan Poe, and talks on human trafficking in Westmoreland County, battling the opioid addiction and how not to be a victim of scams,” she said.
This year, the PA Forward Star program, administered through the Pennsylvania Library Association, granted the library bronze status .
“Libraries throughout (Pennsylvania) continue highlighting that they are more than buildings with books, earning stars along the way and underscoring their continued connections in their local communities,” Christi Buker, Pennsylvania Library Association director, said in a release.
Kaufman and Ceroni said plans for the library’s 80th anniversary, dubbed “Lighting the Path to Literacy and Life Long Learning,” are under way. Details can be found on the library’s website, mountpleasantpalibrary.org.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.