HARRISBURG, OCT. 6, 2009—State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana today expressed profound disappointment over the Carnegie Library’s decision to close four branches in the City of Pittsburgh – including two in his district and the merger of a third in the district with another branch.
“I am saddened and frustrated by the Board’s decision yesterday,” Fontana said. “Libraries are places for opportunity, education, self-help and lifelong learning, yet the Board’s decision has taken away those resources from communities that need them the most.”
Fontana has long been an advocate for public libraries, speaking to their importance to our communities and economies on the Senate floor and through resolutions recognizing their impact in transforming communities. He was also one of the staunchest advocates for increased state funding for public libraries, voting just today on a budget that provides $60 million in funding – $23 million more than was originally passed by the Senate.
Last week, Fontana called on the Board to consider creative solutions and to look at any and all alternatives before make such a drastic decision. In a letter to the Board, he said, “Removing a branch library from communities that are already facing an economic decline is disastrous as well as action from which there may be no recovery….libraries, in big cities and small towns, help transform communities by playing a vital role in supporting the quality of life.”
Fontana also encouraged the City to try to find some additional funds to keep the libraries open and to secure a commitment from the Carnegie Library Board to keep these branches open if additional funding is identified.
The Board of Trustees voted to close the Beechview, West End and Hazelwood branches; to merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches; to close the Lawrenceville branch after a new branch is opened in East Liberty; to move the Mount Washington library from Grandview Avenue to Virginia Avenue; and to close the Allegheny Depository.
“Andrew Carnegie once said, ‘There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration,’” Fontana said. “I hope that this is particularly true of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and that measures can be taken to ensure that there are continued opportunities for libraries in these communities. I pledge my support to finding other solutions and encourage my colleagues to do the same.”