Infighting, lack of funds could drive Carnegie Free Library out of
If it wasn't for the fighting among the ranks, the Carnegie Free
in Carnegie might be in better financial shape.
"They can't resolve anything," says Al Kemper, district coordinator
the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
"Even things they all agree they need, they can't agree on."
Kemper points out the issue of a county grant for use on a handicap
for the library as a prime example of the problem.
The library had a design that the borough didn't like and the borough
had a design that the library didn't like.
Instead of coming to a decision, the fighting went on. And then the
money was gone.
"The county dangled the money for two years and then said never mind,"
Meanwhile, the library's operating funds have steadily dwindled.
During 1997, the borough designated $5,000 to the library and also
agreed to handle some of the maintenance, such as grass cutting and snow
Reportedly, the only reason the borough gave any money was because of
the work of the Library Advisory Board. This small group of 12, which by
1995 by-law should only consist of eight and a chairperson, has taken
upon itself to raise money for the library.
Its goal is to raise $5 million.
The group is far from the goal, the borough being its only victory.
"They've been shaking trees for months, and I haven't seen anything
yet," says Kemper of the advisory board's efforts.
Kemper isn't sure how successful the advisory board will be because he
says people will not contribute to groups where in-fighting is
commonplace. Yet, he would love to see the advisory board succeed because
he is interested in seeing the building restored.
Al Falcioni, advisory board chairperson, agrees that the fighting has
been a large factor in the financial problems the library faces. But, he
also feels the problems are soon to be a thing of the past.
"We have a bandage on the wound right now," says Falcioni.
"The $5,000 from the borough this year was an olive branch to the
In the preliminary borough budget for 1998, the borough has $10,000
earmarked for the library, says Emmett Freshwater, council member.
However, the increase in money is too little too late, in Betsy
point of view.
She is president of the board of trustees, and says the library will
losing state and Regional Asset Development (RAD) money next year.
State and RAD funding are based partially on local municipal support
and are calculated using numbers from two years prior.
Since the Borough of Carnegie only gave the library $1,386 in the way
grass cutting, snow removal and maintenance in 1996, budgeted state and
money will be $1,250 less in 1998. The increase in borough funding will
more than make up for the loss in funds.
"As a rule, most libraries receive 60 percent of their operating costs
from their municipality," says Kemper.
The Upper St. Clair Library received $545,668 from the township for
as operating funds in 1997. Of the 13 mills in real estate taxes
in Upper St. Clair, two mills are put toward funding the library. The
library is also run by the township.
The Crafton Public Library in 1997 received $29,000 toward operating
costs from its borough.
Bridgeville Borough gave its library $8,000 plus maintenance worth
According to the organization of the Carnegie Free Library, however,
borough is not responsible for funding the library.
Andrew Carnegie funded more than 2,500 libraries throughout the
speaking world. In all but five of these libraries, Carnegie made sure
town helped to fund the building.
The library in Carnegie's home town in Scotland, three libraries built
in his steel mill towns and the one library built in the town named after
him were exempt from town support. Instead of municipal funding, Carnegie
gave endowments to the libraries in Braddock, Homestead and Duquesne,
is where his steel mills were located.
Of those three libraries, only Homestead remains eligible to claim the
funds. The original $1 million endowment is only worth $1.2 million now
because of conservative investing by U.S. Steel.
Braddock and Duquesne were both sold, making them ineligible for the
In 1899, a $200,000 fund was set up for the Carnegie Library. All of
that money is gone.
The last $20,000 was spent in legal fees and settlement money.
The library had been renting space to a church. Every month, the
would subtract from its rent total every time it did anything that helped
the library. Some months the church billed the library for money owed.
It got to the point were the church wouldn't vacate because it had
improved the library basement and wanted reimbursed for this. The library
board went to court and got rid of the problem, but used the last of its
endowment money in doing so.
Along with an endowment, Carnegie designed the library with a 17
board, which consisted of 10 life trustees, six borough council members
By this arrangement, Glenn Walsh, acting secretary for the library,
feels that Carnegie meant for the borough to help fund the library by
placing the council members and mayor on the board.
Walsh says the library has received money from the borough over the
years, but the amount has never been enough to properly fund the library.
This year's operating fund for the library is $130,000. Including the
$5,000 donated by the borough, much of the money came from state and RAD
funding. The library earned $30,000 of the budget through fund raising.
At its October 20 board meeting, the library announced that it may
to close its doors because of the lack of operating funds.
As it stands, the library is only open 35 hours a week, the minimum
number of hours allowed to receive state funding. If the library does
receive state funding, it is not eligible to receive RAD money provided
through the extra one percent sales tax paid in Allegheny County.
Of all the libraries in the area, the Carnegie Free Library has the
smallest operating budget.
The head librarian works at an annual salary of $18,000. The
state minimum salary suggested by the Pennsylvania Library Association
Besides needing more money for operating costs, the library building
in need of repairs and restoration. Although there would not be funds
available for restoring the library section of the building, the music
and Civil War room could possibly receive funds.
The Pittsburgh Historical Commission offers a grant program for