Several state, county and Pittsburgh elected officials gathered in the regional enterprise tower this morning in an effort to find a way to keep the four Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches open for at least another year. The Library says it needs about one million dollars to keep the branches open in 2010. State Senator Jay Costa called the meeting. He says, “The task is now in our hands. The public officials need to work … to be able to develop the proceeds we need to keep them open.” Library Board Chair Jacqui Fiske Lazo says she will ask the board at its December meeting to put the closures on hold while the elected official look for the needed cash. She says if legislation is not in place by the February board meeting they will need to move forward with all portions of the cost saving plan. She says, "A check would be best. But we need some sort of firm commitment. We understand there is a process that the public officials need to go through. We would like to respect that." Costa is pushing for the use of table game revenues to fund the library’s shortfall next year. Legislation being debated in Harrisburg would give one percent of the taxes generated by expanded gaming to the host county and one percent to the host municipality. He says that would put about $860,000 into to city’s coffers and he would like to talk about how much of that would go to the libraries. Costa says he would like to see a portion of the county’s take to be earmarked for suburban libraries.
Costa’s money would only keep the libraries open for 2010. Lazo says the budget gap will grow to $2 million in 2011 and continue to get larger in the out years. To deal with the growing number Costa is putting together a taskforce to look at long term solutions. He says the taskforce would be made up of elected officials, library staff and community representatives. He says they need to take a look at more private funding, the city and state’s roll in the funding mix and how libraries of the future should look and be run. The Senator says the taskforce would spend the better part of 2010 grappling with those issues.