Baldwin community celebrates opening of new library
Baldwin Borough Public Library finally has the home staff and supporters have wanted for decades.
On April 1, the library opened its doors at 5230 Wolfe Drive in a building all its own.
“To be standing here now, it’s surreal,” said Tracy Bakowski, who has worked at the library for 11 years.
There was no shortage of hugs, smiles and exclamations of “We did it!” as county leaders, librarians and members of the board of trustees gathered March 29 to christen the building and cut a ceremonial ribbon signifying its opening.
Speakers included county Executive Rich Fitzgerald; state Sen. Jim Brewster; state Rep. Harry Readshaw; Daniel Griffin, chair of the Allegheny Regional Asset District board; and Baldwin Borough Mayor David Depretis.
“This just feels like our home now,” library Director Jenny Worley said as she stood among the crowd inside the brightly lit building, where LED lights hang in the shape of chandeliers and large windows line the walls.
“We’ve created a destination,” she said.
The Baldwin Borough Public Library had operated from the Baldwin-Whitehall School District-owned Wallace School Building for 30 years. There, staffers dealt with a lack of heat, windows falling out and the ceiling collapsing on their program room.
Members of the board of trustees and Friends of the Baldwin Borough Public Library worked for many years to find a new home.
Readshaw laughed as he talked about his first days in office 25 years ago. He didn’t even know his way around the building when LaVerne Oberle, now a former longtime president of the board, came knocking asking for help building a new library.
“It took 25 years and it’s just an example of, when you set out and set a goal, eventually it happens,” he said.
The vision for a new library finally became a reality after Baldwin Borough leaders gave the shuttered Leland Center community building to the library, along with $300,000 it had budgeted for a new roof.
Then came the grants: a $500,000 Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation grant from the state Department of Education’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries; a $500,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget and a $100,000 Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Grant.
The library has about $80,000 to go to reach its $2.1 million fundraising goal for the project, Worley said.
The new library is 5,200 square feet, a 25 percent increase in size from its space in the Wallace Building.
As patrons enter, computers for adults greet them in the main space. An area dedicated to teens is off to the right. A children’s area, including a “Discovery Center,” lines the back wall. A space for adults is in the rear. A large program room, which can be divided into two, fills out the other side.
“I’m happy for the community,” said board President Kelly Mossbauer, who credited Worley for all of her work to bring the new library into being. “I want them to feel proud that this is their library. Baldwin deserves something new and fresh.”
Karen and Steve Mislanovich have lived in Baldwin for 25 years. For the last four, they’ve attended Friday morning story time nearly every week at the library with one of their three grandsons.
“This is really beautiful,” Karen Mislanovich said.
“This is dedicated just to the library,” Steve Mislanovich added. “There were a lot other things going on in the other building.”
Depretis sees the new library as a draw for the borough. He hopes it will be a selling point for people looking to move to the area, and, “hopefully, it will entice people to stay.”
The library is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. More information on upcoming programs can be found at baldwinborolibrary.org.