Friends of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Allegheny Dennis McAndrew and Alida Baker manned the petition table at the launch of "Our Library, Our Future" yesterday. (Photo courtesy Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh launched a campaign yesterday to put a referendum on the November 2011 ballot for a special property tax that would be dedicated solely to the library.

The initiative, called Our Library, Our Future, calls for a 0.25 mill tax on all taxable real estate in Pittsburgh. A mill is equivalent to a tenth of a penny.

If the initiative is successful, that would mean that Pittsburgh home owners would pay an extra $25 per year for every $100,000 of house value.

For the library, that would mean an extra $3 million a year.

To get on the ballot, the library will need to collect a total of 3,000 signatures. According to Allegheny Library Branch Manager Carlton Stout, the library hopes to collect 9,000 signatures by June 30.

In addition to a signature, the petition asks for a name and address. If the name cannot be matched to the given address, or if the signer is not a city resident and registered voter the signature will be kicked out.

If the referendum does make it to the November ballot, it will need 51 percent of the electorate vote to be approved.

Currently, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh receives $40,000 from the City of Pittsburgh every year for 19 branches. Most of the library’s funding comes from the Regional Asset District and the state, but “every year, it gets smaller and smaller,” said Stout.

Last summer, the library experienced a funding crisis that threatened to close some neighborhood branches. The library ultimately decided to cut spending and hours instead, but the issue revealed how serious the problem had become.

“If you support your community, help us out,” said Stout. “We can look at better hours and more services.”

The campaign kicked off at the Main branch in the morning and continued in the evening at the Allegheny branch with food and activities for all who attended. The event was organized and managed by the Friends of the CLP Allegheny, which currently has about 80 members who helped advocate and fundraise.

Before the event at Allegheny, Stout said he hoped to see at least 50 people. At the end of the evening, the seven volunteers at Allegheny had collected about 60 signatures.

Jeanette Lee is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying Professional Writing and Investigative Journalism

Acting Managing Editor Kelly Thomas is a Friend of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Allegheny.