Monday, June 22, 2009
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is looking to take input from and rally the support of the general public as it begins planning for its 2010 budget. The library made nearly $2 million dollars in cuts this year in an effort to keep its 2009 budget in balance. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh President Barbara Mistick says she is looking at a $3 million shortfall next year and $4.5 million deficit in 2011 if nothing is done. She says without new revenues or creative solutions they will have to close branches and that is the last thing she wants to do at a time when library usage is up. She says library usage system wide hit a 17-year high last year. She says the system is becoming more important as people turn to libraries not only as a source of books, CDs and DVDs but also as a place for job search help, internet access and free children’s programs. The library system will hold least three town hall meetings in July to allow people to make suggestions on what cuts could be made. The dates and locations are to be announced next week. Supporters will also be asked to write letters to lawmakers asking for more public funding. Mistick did not make any recommendations on how to increase revenue other than to suggest that Pittsburgh offers less funding than other host cities. 72% of the library’s budget comes from the sales tax funded Regional Asset District, 20% from the state and just .2% from the city. She says the budget problems have been looming in the future for a while but the economic downturn has accelerated the problem as sales tax revenues fall and the state threatens to cut funding for all libraries. Mistick notes that the city has seen its population cut in half since 1950 but the library has retained the same infrastructure. However, she says each branch is a critical part of the neighborhood it serves and would be missed if they were closed.