Hazelwood Library

Hazelwood Library

By now, all of Hazelwood should be abuzz over the closing of the Carnegie Library Hazelwood Branch—and for thatmatter parts of Greenfield, Squirrel Hill, Hays and Lincoln Place too. People should be incensed over this decision to strip one of Greater Hazelwood’sremaining assets. To quote John Tokarski in a letter to the Post Gazette editor, “…the residents and businesses of Hazelwood have seen a declining investment in their community’s infrastructure, its amenities and economic development.”

How can this happen, when just a few years ago the library moved into a brand new building on Second Avenue? New furniture, state of the art computers, and additional staff accompanied themove. The building is secure and has elevator access. These improvements resulted in increased use by folks from inside and outside the community.

And now we are on the chopping block as the Carnegie Library must deal with a projected $1.2 million deficit unless they close Hazelwood and three other branches (Beechview, West End, and Lawrenceville), merge the Knoxville and Carrick branches, and reduce hours at the remaining branches. That amounts to a little more than 5 percent of the library’s 2009 operating budget of $23.3 million. All told, 30 people will loose their jobs. City Council President Doug Shields assailed the closing of the Hazelwood branch. “This decision may seem to make fiscal sense to the board who doesn’t live here, but is an inconceivable loss to this neighborhood. The library is at the heart of what community amenities remain in Hazelwood.”

Some action by the Carnegie Library was expected, but ones this severe are very hard to absorb in communities like Hazelwood where the residents are continually faced with financial hardship. In the current economic state, hard-hit neighborhoods like Hazelwood can not afford to lose one of its most important resources. Libraries are more than shelves of books and periodicals, card catalogues and the Dewey Decimal Classification. Libraries provide greatly needed economic resources. They connect peopleto job and other opportunities. They are crucial in ensuring that anyone who does not have a home computer and internet access can get needed information on line. Libraries also act as an extension of school where students can do research, finish homework, and expand their intellectual horizons. And ibraries often serve as a place where students who don’t function well in the classroom can thrive. Take for example Hazelwood’s own August Wilson, who often chose the Hazelwood Library over Glasdstone High School. Ironic, isn’t it?

Meet the Hazelwood Initiative

Meet the Hazelwood Initiative

Jim is the Executive Director of Hazelwood Initiative.  He has been involved in non-profit management for over 25 years.  As executive director for the Hazelwood Initiative, he is responsible for day-to-day operations, project management, and supporting the Board in governance.  Prior to returning to Pittsburgh, Richter was Chief Advocate for the ARC of Westmoreland.  There he served as agency lobbyist and director of the early intervention program.  For close to ten years, Jim served as a consultant to non-profit agencies in the human service, arts and educational fields working on board development; executive mentoring; program design and evaluation; fundraising; and mergers.  Jim also worked for four years as senior consultant for the fund raising firm of TCR Group.  Prior to going into consulting, he was the executive director of Riverview Community Action in Oakmont and foundation director for the Baptist Homes of Western Pennsylvania.  Richter has been a member of several professional and service organizations.  Among them, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (former NSFRE) where he was National Philanthropy Day Co-Chair and member of the Program Committee; Coalition for Responsible Philanthropy; National Council on Aging; Vice-chair of the County Aging Service Providers; South Hills Chamber of Commerce; and Salvation Army.  Richter also served on the Allegheny County Health Department’s Maternal and Child Health Planning Committee.  He has been a presenter at national conferences of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.  Presently, he serves as treasurer of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group.  In his home community, Richter was a member of the Bethel ParkParksand Recreation Board, a travel soccer coach (D-License) and a founding Trustee of the Bethel Park Community Foundation.  Richter studied public administration at the University pf Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, English Literature at Pitt, and concert violin at DuquesneUniversity.  During undergraduate school, he worked at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, but still made time to play on Pitt’s Ice Hockey Club.  Now, he serves as a Field Service Instructor for the School of Social Work. He also has a certificate in Government Relations from the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, Government Relations Institute. 

Community Organizing and Neighborhood Advocacy

Community Organizing and Neighborhood Advocacy

Through various organizational committees that seek to engage and involve disconnected community stakeholders, HI works to create a diverse, tolerant, and interconnected community based on a comprehensive vision. Among its significant community building services,HI produces a monthly tabloid-style newspaper, the Hazelwood Homepage; maintains a community resource web site, www.hazelwoodhomepage.org; hosts numerous cultural and civic events; provides an open forum for community issues at its monthly General Membership meetings; and initiates and facilitates block club development. HI strives to be democratic in governance, open and accessible to community members, and adept at emphasizing issues of immediate importance while linking them to a larger vision of the common good.

Our Community Vision

We envision Hazelwood as a space for innovation, transportation, creativity, entrepreneurship and jobs creation; a welcoming community that is socially, economically and culturally diverse. We strive for a unified, collaborative Hazelwood and a visibly improving quality of life that everyone can be proud of our promise to the community.

As the go-to community-based organization, Hazelwood Initiative will engage, listen, inform and mobilize around shared neighborhood priorities to support a community that advocates, participates, and encourages self-sufficiency and builds true empowerment. We will gather and share resources, encourage partnerships with organizations best suited to meet community needs and provide referrals to help residents provide for themselves and their families. We will recognize our unique community assets, including our people, hillsides, river, greenspace, brownfield, and historic buildings, and weʼll use our assets to develop a greener and healthier Hazelwood.

Our Community Mission

The mission of Hazelwood Initiative as a community-based community development corporation, is to be community driven, providing a shared stronger voice for Greater Hazelwood by gathering community input to build a sense of hope, harmony, and promise, by supporting human, spiritual and continuing community development.

Reading areas with large windows inside the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Reading areas with large windows inside the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Elected officials and the Regional Asset District Board also launched into action. Coming days after the Regional Asset District allocated $17.6 million to the library’s 2010 budget, the same amount it received this year, the RAD Board voted to conduct an audit of the Carnegie Library. “This is the first time we’ve used our authority in such a broad way,” said David Donohoe, RAD Executive Director. The review is not a “performance audit” of the library’s present financialcondition, but a study of the factors it used to predict future deficits. What comes of that audit remains to be seen. meeting for October 24 in Lawrenceville with Library representatives and residents of the effected neighborhoods where someimes they visited the site https://www.pbphomerepair.com/wellington-fl/ and disscus about it. Over 250 people attended including at least two dozen from Hazelwood. Toting signs that read, “Save Our Libraries” about 75 people stood patiently in line for more than two hours to speak.

Mayor Ravenstahl called a meeting for October 24 in Lawrenceville with Library representatives and residents of the effected neighborhoods. Over 250 people attended including at least two dozen from Hazelwood. Toting signs that read, “Save Our Libraries” about 75 people stood patiently in line for more than two hours to speak. On the legislative front, Rep. Chelsea Wagner convened a working group of community leaders, which Hazelwood Initiative has joined. Representatives Wagner, Dan Frankel along with Jake Wheatley, Dan Deasy, and Paul Costa and Senators Jay Costa, Jim Ferlo and Wayne Fontana are continuing discussions around dedicating proposed table gaming revenue to the Carnegie Library. It is clear that the Library needs an additional $1.2 million annually from a dedicated funding source, but garnering that from table games will necessitate passage by the entire State Legislature. As the campaign to save the Hazelwood Library continues, I urge the residents of Hazelwood to rally in support. First, sign the on-line petition to Save Our Pittsburgh Libraries.

Second, attend City Council meetings, community meetings and other gatherings in support of the Library. In fact, on November 10, Mary Frances Cooper, Deputy Director and Mary Monaghan, Assistant Director, Neighborhood Libraries, are expected toattend the Hazelwood Initiative Membership and Community meeting— so it is critical that we pack the Carbarn. Third, call your State senator and representative to endorse the proposed use of table gaming revenue for funding of the Library. For more information, call the Hazelwood Initiative office

The children’s section of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The children's section of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

But the actions of the Library board fell pretty true to form. The library had been laying the groundwork since late winter with the release of studies by CMU and the Rand Corp. indicating that without new sources of revenue, retrenchment was needed. The Rand study, Assessing the Future of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh—Pathways to Sustainability, highlighted nine opportunities one of which was to “Conduct a right-sizing assessment for the number and size of facilities, staffing, and holdings and implement the new strategy.” After releasing predictions of the $6 million shortfall, it followed with three town hall-style public meetings in the summer to collect suggestions on how to save money. Many Hazelwood residents attended these meetings and several gave impassioned testimony in support of our Library.

By October 1, news was out that the Carnegie Library Board intended to vote on the closing of the branches. A last minute rally was organized for October 5—the day of the Board’s vote—by folks in Beechview that gained momentum in the other effected communities including Hazelwood. In four short hours, the Hazelwood Initiative and others in the community gathered over 175 signatures on a petition to save the Library. The petitions were faxed with a two-page letter to the Library Director. Rep. Dan Frankel, a Library Board member also faxed a letter opposing the closing of Hazelwood’s branch. Rep. Frankel was in Harrisburg working on passage of a State budget and could not attend the Library Board meeting. Several Hazelwood residents then attended the rally in Oakland just before the meeting.

The Library Board voted to close the branches anyway. Then the issue began to get the press coverage it deserved. If you have been following the Post Gazette and Tribune Review, no less than 25 articles were written in the last two weeks. In addition, scores of letters to the editor have been published.