Addendum: Comments and Questions Regarding
Rehabilitation Project for the
Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall
2006 April 22
1) Historic Bayer Children’s Room - I am very happy to see that the Bayer Corporation has agreed to sponsor the Library’s historic Children’s Room. It is not widely known that the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was the first suburban library to design and construct a room specifically with children in mind! Although the Carnegie Library of Homestead started their Children’s Room about a year before the Andrew Carnegie Free Library opened, the Homestead Library Children’s Room opened about two years after the Homestead Library opened, and hence, their Children’s Room was not specifically designed and built for children.
FYI—The Main Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was the first library to start a
Children’s Department. But, again, their Children’s Room was not specifically designed and
constructed for children. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s first neighborhood branch
library in Lawrenceville has the distinction of having the very first room specifically designed
and built for children, in 1898.
Perhaps some type of sign, along with the sign for the Bayer Children’s Room, could be
mounted to explain this history to the public?
Also, do you know what has become of the portrait of Andrew Carnegie which was displayed
in the Children’s Room? It is identical to the portrait currently hanging in the Reference
Room. Both were gifts to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in 1935 from the Carnegie
2) Historic Black-Out Blinds - In November of 1999, I had the Library’s historic Black-Out Blinds reinstalled on three southern windows of the Library’s main reading room. I placed an explanation sign close to these windows, so that the public would learn of the historic nature of these blinds. Later, the Board of Trustees provided a nice glass frame for this sign. However, shortly after the sign, inside the glass frame, was mounted, it disappeared.
These blinds are a significant part of the Library’s history. Would it be possible to remount this sign near these blinds? As with the suggested history explanation sign for the Children’s Room, this history explanation sign will help Library visitors learn about the rich history of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library. Enclosed is a copy of the sign.
3) Historic Wooden Railings - I have noticed that the two historic wooden railings, that were constructed near the Circulation Desk, have not been reinstalled following construction of the elevator and new restroom. Will these historic wooden railings be reinstalled in the near future?
4) Historic Original Library Restroom – What has become of the beautiful floor tile and marble sink (which included a 1901 vintage soap dispenser in the marble sink) from the Library’s original restroom? Will these be used elsewhere in the rehabilitation project?
5) Historic Spanish-American War Cannons – I was happy to see the rehabilitation of the concrete mounting of the cannon, just south of the Library’s main entrance.
6) Historic Brick Courtyard – Will the brick from the courtyard be returned as the paving material for the Library’s Historic Courtyard, or will this brick be used elsewhere in the
project? I had noticed that these bricks were being temporarily stored on the
berm, between the Library Driveway and
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7) Historic Movie-house Seats from Lecture Hall – Were the old Lecture Hall seats, originally from a borough movie-house, donated to the Historical Society following the rehabilitation of the Lecture Hall?
Hall of the New England Conservatory of Music in
Another issue, regarding this seating, involves the need for larger chairs for today’s audiences. This problem has been solved during the on-going rehabilitation of seating in the Music Hall of the Braddock Carnegie Library. They have “spacers” to add to each original seat, to make each seat larger. Consultant Mark Fatla (then Executive Director of the Community Technical Assistance Center, soon to be Executive Director of the Northside Leadership Conference in Pittsburgh), who worked with the Andrew Carnegie Free Library at the very beginning of the rehabilitation project, was impressed with how the Braddock Carnegie Library solved this problem, thus allowing them to continue using their original seating. I would urge the Andrew Carnegie Free Library to investigate this “spacer” solution.
9) Historic Railroad Locomotive Diagram – This was a large diagram, in a glass frame, donated by a Library volunteer several years ago. At the beginning of the rehabilitation project, just before I left the Board of Trustees, I could not find this diagram. Do you have any idea what has become of this diagram?
11) Historic Library Lights – I was happy to see the reuse of the historic Library ceiling lights in the Lecture Hall. However, I do wonder whether these lights were not originally from the Library-proper. This should be investigated. If these lights did originally come from the Library-proper, they should eventually be returned to the Library-proper, with similar new fixtures replacing them in the Lecture Hall. The current lighting in the Library-proper is substandard and needs improvement. These historic lights, if originally from the Library-proper, would be a great improvement. Otherwise, better lighting, to fit the historic style of the lights currently in the Lecture Hall, need to be installed in the Library-proper.
12) Historic Windows – I would hope that the existing windows, or windows of a very similar nature, can be installed during the rehabilitation. They should be double or triple-pane windows to improve heat insulation. And, these windows should include a special film which screens-out ultra-violet light; such special UV filtered windows will greatly extend the life of the Library’s books and other materials.
13) Use of Real Fire on Historic Wooden Music Hall Stage – When Our American Cousin was performed as a benefit for the Civil War Museum in April of 2000 (135th Anniversary of the Assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln), there was a dispute regarding the lighting of real candles on the Music Hall stage. Eventually, this was allowed after the Director agreed to extra precautions. However, as a Library Trustee responsible for the protection of the facility and the safety of the audience, I was
Addendum: Library Rehabilitation Project 2006 April 22 Page 3 of 3
very uncomfortable with the use of any fire on a wooden stage—particularly when synthetic fire-looking, electric candles would have sufficed. Often a synthetic electric “fire” in a fireplace had been used on this stage.
Enclosed is a photocopy of a news article, from the
2005 September 6 issue of
No Longer Largest Library Collection in
to the statistics on the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall web site,
the Library had 35,772 cataloged items in 2001, but this collection size fell to 22,335 last year. With such a
sizable reduction in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library’s collection size, there
is now a major question as to whether the Andrew Carnegie Free Library can
truly expect to attract patrons from throughout the
The South Fayette Township Library would have been larger, had their plans for construction of a new building been approved. However, today their library has a collection size of nearly 22,000 in a space less than half the size of the library-proper in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library building!
The statistics on your “About Us” web page also show that Inter-Library Loans from the Andrew Carnegie Free Library to other libraries has declined, from 12,803 in 2004 to 9,631 in 2005. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of materials, through Inter-Library Loan, that the Andrew Carnegie Free Library must borrow from other libraries: 5,375 in 2004 to 6,679 in 2005! This conclusively shows that library patrons are not finding what they need at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library!
I understand the space problems involved with construction of the elevator. However, I am
quite disappointed by the extreme reduction in the collection size of the Library’s books,
pamphlet files, and other materials. As you well know, Andrew Carnegie was primarily
interested in libraries as institutions which can help people improve themselves. With such a
drastic reduction in the Library’s collection, I question whether the Andrew Carnegie Free
Library can adequately serve the needs of people when information continues increasing at an
While serving on the Board of Trustees, I long advocated the creation of a closed-stacks book
room, perhaps in the small room at the bottom of the staircase from the Library, in what was
the Library Bookstore. This could never be implemented, due to the water problems in the
basement. Once the water problems are solved, I suggest the Board of Trustees seriously
consider establishing a closed-stacks book room, to increase the Library’s collection size as
much as possible.