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Web site address rankles Carnegie Library

| Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and its critics have one new thing to squabble about — a Web address.

Critic David Tessitor runs a Web site, carnegielibrary.us , critical of the Carnegie. The library wants it shut down, claiming Tessitor doesn't have the right to use 'Carnegie Library' in the domain name.

E.J. Strassburger, attorney for the Carnegie Library handed Tessitor a cease-and-desist letter while they were in Allegheny County Court Wednesday arguing before a judge whether library board meetings should be open to the public.

The letter states, "You are hereby directed to cease any unauthorized use of the trademark 'Carnegie Library' as the name of any Internet domain, including the immediate cessation of the publication of 'carnegielibrary.us,' and to take all steps necessary immediately to transfer the domain name 'carnegielibrary.us' to its sole rightful owner -- my client."

Tessitor disputed the Carnegie Library's ownership of the name.

"They don't own the trademark for Carnegie Library," he said. "They only own it for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh."

Tessitor and Glenn A. Walsh have filed the lawsuit seeking to open the library board's meetings to the public. The lawsuit was filed after the library board's voted last year to close the Beechview, Hazelwood, Lawrenceville and West End branches, merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches and move the Mt. Washington library from Grandview Avenue to Virginia Avenue.

Tessitor's Web site discusses a proposed petition for a library amendment to the Pittsburgh City Charter. If ratified, the amendment would do the following: dedicate 1 percent of the municipal property tax to libraries without increasing taxes; place financial controls on capital spending for the branches; force library board meetings and records to be open; make the present board of trustees advisory and create a library commission composed of five members elected by district, four elected at large and four appointees with library management experience; and require trained librarians to run the Carnegie.

Barbara K. Mistick, president and director, is not a librarian.

During yesterday's hearing before Judge W. Terrence O'Brien, Tessitor and Walsh argued that the Carnegie Library was founded as an "integral" part of the city. As a result, they argue, it should be considered an "agency" under state law. Agencies are required to open their meetings to the public.

"It's a question of whether the library is an agency in the statute," Strassburger said. "All case law says no."

O'Brien said he would make a decision about the open meetings next week.

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