HARRISBURG, OCT. 21, 2009—State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana yesterday continued his fight to keep open four branches of the Carnegie Library in the City of Pittsburgh by requesting the members of the Carnegie Library Board of Trustees to delay the planned closures, mergers or moves for one year.
“It is not too late for the Board to act responsively and responsibly,” said Fontana. “The approval of the action plan last week can still be amended. I would hope that the Board would view it as a living document that can be changed based on the efforts they see being made by the community and the libraries’ supporters. The Board can still make changes before their budget is adopted in December, if we are able to make the case to keep these branches open.”
Fontana’s letter urged the Board to delay the actions for at least one year to allow time for long-term solutions to be identified, to provide the opportunity for the public to weigh in on the closures, to allow the RAD Board to conduct its audit (if that is the decision made), and to allow legislative efforts to address this issue outside of the budget process to culminate.
Fontana has advocated for increased state funding for public libraries and called on the Carnegie Library Board to consider creative solutions and to look at other alternatives. Upon the announcement by the Board that the Beechview, West End, Lawrenceville and Hazelwood branches would be closed, the Carrick and Knoxville branches merged, and the Mount Washington library moved, Fontana immediately spoke against the decision and has continued meeting with representatives of the affected branches, communities, and his colleagues to find another solution.
Fontana hopes to secure a commitment from the Carnegie Library Board to keep these branches open if additional funding is identified, but thus far there has not been such a commitment. As Minority Chairman of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, he has been actively lobbying his colleagues to allow a portion of the local share from the table games expansion to go to the library system if these branches are left open. Senator Fontana also continues to participate in community meetings with residents who are working to identify options – including a meeting held this past Saturday in Beechview and an upcoming meeting in Mt. Washington tomorrow.
Earlier this week, he also called on the RAD Board to approve the recommendation by its audit committee to look into the Library’s long-range finances and how the decision to close libraries was made. The RAD Board will consider that recommendation at this afternoon’s board meeting.
“Libraries are important to our communities and economies – and is something that Dr. Mistick has driven home each and every time I’ve met with her in the past,” said Fontana. “They play a vital role in these affected communities and now is not the time for us to be closing them. Even during the Great Depression – a 10-year time span – not one Carnegie Library closed. I am amazed that we are not allowing our communities time to find ways to continue the services of these small branches during such a difficult time in our economy.”