Officials: Library branches to remain open, but sustainable funding needed


This week the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh board of directors voted to keep all library branches open in 2011, reversing an earlier plan that called for several branches to close.

A large budget deficit prompted the development of the plan to close several library branches, but public outcry and a one-time grant from the City of Pittsburgh postponed the closings while the library engaged with the public to find a better solution for its budget woes.

The library held a series of public meetings over the summer, and one suggestion was closing branches on alternate days rather than closing branches entirely. Under that plan, the Allegheny branch might close on Mondays, with Woods Run open, and Woods Run might close on Tuesdays, with Allegheny open.

Thinnes said that currently the plan is to continue into 2011 with current library hours, and that closing branches on alternating days is not necessary. That could change when the state releases its budget in the summer, she said.

The 2011 library budget includes an estimated $500,000 from table game revenue and a 3 percent increase in Allegheny County Regional Asset District funding, which translates to an extra $528,000.

RAD is one of the library’s main funders, and will provide $18.1 million of the library’s nearly $24 million budget in 2011.

Thinnes said the $500,000 in table game revenue translates to 1 percent of total revenue earned by table games at Rivers Casino. One stipulation for receiving those funds each year will is keeping the library system whole and not closing branches, Thinnes said.

In addition to seeking increases in RAD funding each year, the Public Private Task Force recommended that the library grow its endowment, improve advocacy efforts, create a “culture of library supporters” and seek increases in corporate donations, among others.

Thinnes said the library board would examine the task force’s report in January, and that the report will be made public after the board has a chance to examine it.

She stressed that the library needs a long-term, sustainable funding solution to continue operations and deliver the community services it always has.

That isn’t the only big news that came out at the meeting.

Library Director Barbara Mistick also announced that she would be leaving her position at the end of May when her contract expires, and the recently created Public Private Task Force, created to explore alternative models and sources of funding, presented its study on how best to find a sustainable funding solution for the library system.

Library Spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes said that because Mistick announced her departure in advance, the board has time to launch a national search for a new director. Mistick will also help with the transition and ensure it goes well, Thinnes said.

While searching for a new director, the board has to study the Public Private Task Force’s study and determine the best course of action for the library system’s financial future.

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