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.