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Renovated libraries seeing circulations leap to new heights

Tony LaRussa
| Monday, July 5, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Major renovations to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's facilities are not limited to the main branch in Oakland.

A site-by-site review of each of the library's 19 branches was launched in 2001 to determine whether changes are needed to make the facilities:

  • Fully accessible.

  • More inviting and comfortable.

  • Better suited for community and library programs.

  • Capable of displaying both print and electronic materials.

    "In developing a master plan for the library system, we found that some of our branches failed to meet the needs of the community on a number of levels," said Lane Cigna, spokeswoman for the library. "We had five branches that were not air-conditioned; none of the buildings were fully accessible to people with physical disabilities, and many had been neglected for years."

    So far, the branches in Brookline and Homewood have been renovated, and the library in Hazelwood has been moved to a new building along the neighborhood's main artery, Second Avenue.

    Revitalization of branch libraries has resulted in significant jumps in book circulation. Circulation increased by 29.2 percent at the Brookline branch, 77.7 percent at the Homewood facility and 20.7 percent at Hazelwood.

    A $4.7 million renovation of the Squirrel Hill branch at Forbes and Murray avenues is under way. The Downtown branch is slated to close Aug. 5, when it will be moved from the Library Center on Wood Street to a storefront being refurbished at 612 Smithfield St.

    Designs are being developed for an estimated $719,000 renovation of the library branch in the city's Woods Run neighborhood.

    The review process -- which begins with a series of public meetings -- is expected to start in earnest in September for the Lawrenceville branch.

    "When it comes to the branches, nothing is set in stone," Cigna said. "In some cases, such as Homewood and Brookline, the libraries were renovated because they already were in good locations.

    "But in Hazelwood, the old building was abandoned in favor of a new building that was more easily accessible," Cigna said. "Residents get to participate in what will happen at the library in their communities."

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