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Library groups jump into action

Citizens groups are ratcheting up fundraising for city libraries — even selling discarded books for use in a movie — because of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s money woes.

In the past year, Friends of the Library chapters started or were resurrected at the Lawrenceville, Oakland, Allegheny, Downtown, West End and Woods Run branches, said library system spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes. Other chapters are being revived in Homewood, Sheraden, Brookline, Knoxville and Hazelwood.

Libraries in Squirrel Hill, the Hill District, Beechview, South Side, Mt. Washington and Carrick long have had such chapters.

“If branches aren’t physically closed, library hours will have to be reduced,” said Denise Graham, manager of the Homewood library. “That is a fear for all Carnegie branches.”

The Homewood library will be the site of a meeting from 10:30 a.m. to noon Nov. 13 for patrons interested in reviving its Friends chapter.

Officials at the branches became concerned after the library system’s board voted last fall to close the Beechview, Hazelwood, Lawrenceville and West End branches, merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches, and move the Mt. Washington library from Grandview to Virginia Avenue.

After a public outcry and injection of temporary money from City Council, the board postponed the four closings and relocation through this year. The plan to merge the Carrick and Knoxville branches is proceeding.

The Friends chapter in Homewood disbanded about four years ago.

“With the current economic climate, we hope to have some friends who are willing to be advocates for the library,” Graham said. “Even if they don’t say anything, just showing up in numbers helps.”

The Friends of the West End Library, one of the branches slated for closure, was dormant for years but became active again in September.

It joined the Woods Run and Squirrel Hill branches in selling books to DreamWorks Studios for “I Am Number Four,” a movie being filmed at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.

“They bought up boxes and boxes of discarded books,” said Mark Kohut, president of the West End Friends chapter. It raised $300 from the studio.

The Friends chapter in Lawrenceville, another library slated for closure, raised about $8,000 this year, said Suzanne Park, vice president of the chapter.

The group raised $1,000 selling cocoa in January. Park raised about $1,500 by running an extra mile in the Pittsburgh Marathon. And the chapter raised $5,600 in September from auctioning works by neighborhood artists. The group gave half of the auction proceeds to support operations of all the branches.

“We wanted to make a point that this same library that was supposed to be closed already could give back to the system, and it was short-sighted of them to consider closing our branch,” Park said.

Thinnes said the various Friends chapters raised $47,029 last year for the general operations of the system. She said she does not know how much they raised for their respective branches.


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