Sunday, December 11, 2011

Carnegie Library Budget Hearing Before Pittsburgh City Council

Friday afternoon (2011 December 9), the Carnegie Library Administration went before Pittsburgh City Council for their annual hearing regarding the City budget. Mary Frances Cooper, Deputy Director, and Karlyn Voss, Director, External and Government Relations, testified before City Council members Darlene Harris (City Council President chairing the hearing in the absence of Finance Chair Bill Peduto) and Patrick Dowd. Both of these Council members serve on the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Library.

There were only four people in the audience. Two of them represented the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, who were waiting to go before City Council for the next budget hearing. One person represented the Oakland Business Improvement District, who was waiting to go before City Council for the last budget hearing of the day. So, I was the only member of the general public to attend the Carnegie Library budget hearing. However, this budget hearing was broadcast on the City Cable Television Channel.

The following are some of the highlights of this short budget hearing:

> Of course, they discussed the successful public referendum for a 0.25 percent increase in city property taxes, dedicated to Carnegie Library.

> Carnegie Library Administration emphasized that other aspects of the Board of Trustees' financial plan for the Library would continue to be implemented; they would not stop  trying to raise other monies, simply because the Library Tax referendum was successful. This includes working with the Board of Directors of the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) for additional RAD funding and raising money from private sources. They are looking into some type of tax incentive program for library donors.

> In addition to the funds coming from the new Library Tax, the annual contribution of $ 40,000 from the city's general fund would continue to be provided to Carnegie Library. This $ 40,000 figure was the annual Library "maintenance pledge" agreed upon between Andrew Carnegie and the City of Pittsburgh in 1890, part of the arrangement that resulted in Andrew Carnegie agreeing to spend no less than one million dollars (in 1890 dollars) to build a central library for Pittsburgh (opened in 1895) and no less than five neighborhood library branches (in the end, Andrew Carnegie funded construction of eight neighborhood library branches). This funding did not include funding of the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny (later known as the Allegheny Regional Branch) on the North Side (next to Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science), which opened in 1890 as the country's first, publicly-funded Carnegie Library; this library, along with the Woods Run neighborhood branch, joined The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system in 1956.

> In 2012, Carnegie Library will be preparing a new Strategic Plan for the Allegheny Regional Asset District. Such Strategic Plans, updated periodically, are a requirement for receiving RAD funds.

> The Library's "Community Engagement Plan" will continue with the first Board of Trustees Annual Meeting, to be open to the general public, scheduled for March 22. Additional community meetings will be scheduled for April and May and may include discussion of items to be included in the new Strategic Plan.

 > Darlene Harris stated that, with the new funding coming to Carnegie Library, the Carnegie Library Administration should reconsider placing a mini-library branch in the original Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny (i.e. original Allegheny Regional Branch) building, which is located in the center of the traditional North Side business district (where a $ 6 million project of reconstructing the Allegheny Public Square is currently underway).

> Although not in attendance at this meeting, Darlene Harris mentioned that City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith stated that Carnegie Library should provide greater transparency to the public.

> Nothing was mentioned about the search for a new Carnegie Library Director.


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
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* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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