"Libraries need funding to provide much needed educational resources, including early childhood instruction, career assistance and computer and Internet access," says Dr. Barbara K. Mistick, President and Director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP). "Everyone agrees that the Library provides more than just books - we provide the resources that are vital to the educational and economic advancement of our community. And because these resources are available to all, without regard to age, race, income or any other factor, the Library is the great equalizer. Despite this essential value, funding for libraries is not keeping pace with the rising costs of providing services."
For the Library, 2010 was a year to engage the community in an open and frank discussion about library funding and the future of library services. The Library's Board of Trustees appointed a Public Private Task Force on Sustainable Library Funding to explore alternative models and sources of funding to sustain the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system. Simultaneously, community workshop participants discussed ways the system could remain operationally and financially healthy.
Andrew Carnegie once said, "I am clearly of the opinion that it is only by the City maintaining its Public Libraries as it maintains its public schools that every citizen can be made to feel that he is a joint proprietor of them, and that the Public Library is for the public as a whole and not for any portion thereof; and I am equally clear that unless a community is willing to maintain Public Libraries at the public cost, very little good can be obtained from them."
Task Force finds region to be at risk if library funding continues to decrease.
The 10-member Public Private Task Force on Sustainable Library Funding convened more than nine times throughout the year to analyze the Library's financial outlook, consider benchmarks from other American public libraries and weigh the organization's ability to obtain stable and adequate funding.
As part of their research, the Task Force met with library experts and utilized reports, including supplemental research underwritten by UPMC Health Plan. The research found that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has one of the smallest operating budgets for a city and regional system of its size and stature.
"The Library transforms and advances our lives, our communities and our society," says Task Force member Scott H. Lammie, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, UPMC Insurance Services. "Pittsburgh's preeminent position among the most literate cities in America is now in serious jeopardy as funding cuts continue to weaken the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system."
In their October interim report to the Library's Board of Trustees, Task Force Chair and Library Trustee The Honorable Frank Lucchino reported that the group thoroughly explored 19 library funding opportunities to sustain the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system. The group's final report, to be presented in December, is expected to include a sustainable funding model that combines new revenue streams with increased fundraising initiatives.
Community Conversations solidify Library's strong role.
More than 1,400 people participated in interactive discussions, ideas and evaluations - both in person and online - in 12 community workshops throughout the city. Library Deputy Director Mary Frances Cooper led the Community Conversation process. "People view the Library as essential to providing educational opportunities for children in our community," states Cooper. "They are very clear in their support for the Library's role in enhancing literacy and learning and in access to information for everyone."
The collective result of the community process is that participants now understand the challenges facing CLP and are inspired to support the Library through advocacy and fundraising. The Library also has a solid foundation for ongoing community dialog.
"The people of Pittsburgh have asked us to do everything possible to keep this system strong," Dr. Mistick stresses. "We can't lose momentum. We need the community to stay involved in the conversation and to be a part of the solution."
>> For the most recent updates, reports and recommendations on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's progress toward long-term sustainable funding, visit our Community Updates.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh projected a $5 million deficit by 2014, if long-term sustainable funding was not found. Facing stagnant funding resources and unable to cut expenses without cutting into the heart of library service, the Library?s Board of Trustees made the difficult decision to close and merge branches, increase fines and fees and reduce library service and staff. With stop-gap funding from the City of Pittsburgh, the Library's Board made a commitment to the public to defer all library closures for one year while it sought ways to provide sustainable funding to maintain Library services the community needs and values.
The Community Conversation process and the Public Private Task Force on Sustainable Funding have revealed the complexity of the funding issue, as well as the high value placed on library services. Ongoing community support will be vital as the Library moves forward with recommendations that will keep it strong well into the future.