The floors are currently concrete, and the rooms have yet to be finished, but the sounds of drilling and construction on Federal Street are a constant reminder that the Northside is getting a new library.
Although the library won’t be officially open to the general public until the end of August, the rooms and spaces that will make up the new location have already begun to take shape. In a preview of the library, The Northside Chronicle was able to take a sneak peak at the latest state of the new Allegheny branch.
The library will offer a general collection, a children’s area, and a teen hangout. All these areas will be under the supervision of a librarian, but will allow teenagers and children to feel more comfortable, with specific collections and book choices in those areas.
There will also be a historic collection, housing important documents from the history of Allegheny City, the original city on the Northside. The meeting table in this room is made out of a fallen tree in Riverview Park. There will also be a community meeting room that can seat up to 49 people.
Natural sunlight will pour through the large skylights and windows, which gives the library a more open feeling, and provides for greater sustainability. Large wood paneled beams will stretch up to the ceiling. The upper portions will remain exposed. The ground will be carpeted, except in some areas near the entrances that will be tile.
The employee area will consist of offices, a break room and even a shower. Employees will be able to walk or bike to work, and the library will offer these features to promote energy efficiency and sustainability. The building will achieve a level of LEED certification as well.
Off the children’s area will be a child terrace, enclosed from the street but open to the air.
The main collection and children areas will be laid out to promote maximum visibility. Larger shelving will be placed along the walls. Project manager Ron Graziano said that this promotes safety, especially for children.
“It’s very open and a lot of the shelving is low so that the librarians can see over the entire area,” Graziano said.
The idea for a new library began after the old Allegheny branch in Allegheny Center was struck by lightning. After significant repairs, the Carnegie Library system decided that it needed a newer, more up to date facility. Even after the repairs to the old branch, plaster kept falling.
Suzanne Thinnes, the Communications Manager for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, said that the library was a team effort between the Carnegie Library System and the Northside community.
“It was great just seeing everyone go through the process and comment on the designs for the library. We want to give the community the best library,” Thinnes said. She added that much of the design reflects community input, including the height of the building, which makes it look like two stories.
Thinnes said that the look and feel of a new building promotes the community and gives people a fresh opinion of what their neighborhood library can do for them. She said that many of the older libraries lacked proper facilities, even air condition.
“It really brings vitality and renewed interest when people see the new libraries. People come more, in fact, last year our circulation was the highest it’s been in 17 years,” Thinnes said.
Thinnes also pointed to a lot of the revitalization activities around the library, including the future arrival of a Crazy Mocha and Fifth Third Bank location, along with community plans for the Garden Theater block. She added that libraries tend to promote positive community growth where they are built.
This library was part of a plan to rebuild and renovate other library around the city. The Hill District was recently completed, and the library in East Liberty is slated for renovations.