Monday, October 19, 2009

Library Closings - by the numbers

Natalia Rudiak received this eloquent essay and research from a soon-to-be Beechview constituent. She did not yet verified this information, but the citations are listed below. Please feel free to share with your networks.

"I and my neighbors are dismayed by the apparent inequity of closing our library and those in other less affluent neighborhoods. In my correspondence with the RAD Board I questioned the rationale and criteria used to determine which branches were to close. It seems as though community libraries like Squirrel Hill's were never in any danger even though they are so very close to the Main Library and have ample and direct bus service to and from that location. Their library is also open 7 days a week compared to Beechview's 5 days. The Squirrel Hill branch is also open 52 hours per week compared to Beechview's 37 hours. When I expanded my research to include some of the other locations earmarked for closure, the number of hours and days per week are very similar. In addition, the number of available hours on evenings and weekends is similarly lopsided. Squirrel Hill's library has 45-60% more evening and weekend hours than those libraries due to close. This is especially important if overall library usage was used as one of the criterion for closures. With such a disparity of hours of operation and especially those on evenings and weekends, is it any wonder that a branch such as Squirrel Hills has more usage?

"Their square footage is also larger and the additional resources within also impact usage. The Carnegie Library has recently added an outdoor scrolling message board to the Squirrel Hill branch. In the face of impending funding shortfalls and economic troubles, it seems extravagant to be adding a sign yet completely closing branches in other communities.

"With the announcement of branch closings, the Carnegie Library mentioned that neighborhoods losing their branches were close to other branches -- like Brookline's branch to Beechview (1.5 to 2 miles away with no direct public transportation). If proximity to other branches was another primary criterium, then why, with Squirrel Hill about a half a mile away from the Main Library, were they not more strongly considered? It appears as though CONVENIENCE is an option for communities like Squirrel Hill, but not for smaller and less wealthy neighborhoods.

"I have nothing against Squirrel Hill, their residents or library users, but I don't feel like the playing ground is a level one. Looking back over the last few years on the tens of millions of dollars that the Carnegie Library Board has spent on expansions and renovations on many of its branches, it appears like these closings may have been planned for quite some time. I don't know whether or not any of the libraries planning to be closed were those receiving renovations or expansion, though it wouldn't be hard to find out.

“With the Board's acknowledgment of funding shortfalls that they knew and admit were coming about -- these multimillion dollar expenditures are in hindsight foolish and irresponsible. The Carnegie Library Board is made up of well-compensated smart people who now appear to be shrugging their shoulders and acting like these events were totally unforeseen. This is a stretch at best.

"One of Andrew Carnegie's primary goals when establishing the libraries was for the "improvement of the poorer classes." If this is an ongoing importance to the Carnegie Library, then these closures make no sense whatsoever. It seems that the values and goals which were once so vital to the heart of the library mission are no longer an issue. Communities like Beechview, Hazelwood, West End, Lawrenceville and Carrick are exactly the type of areas public libraries are intended. No one would argue that more affluent communities like Squirrel Hill have more options and resources available to them when compared to these other neighborhoods, yet it is the very communities that need this resource the most and have fewer options which are asked to do without. Somehow, the Carnegie Board has lost its clarity of purpose and direction.

"This is yet another devastating blow to Beechview residents. Having endured the many losses of businesses and the URA debacle with Bernardo Katz, Beechview needs some true support and not the loss of another community resource. It seems as though our tax dollars rarely, if ever, find their way back as reinvestments in our community. However, it feels as though whenever the city needs to make cuts or look for cost-savings, then Beechview magically appears at the top of the list.

"Here are the library hours information that I paraphrased. When you look at these numbers, it isn't hard to see how usage numbers can be easily skewed or slanted to damn some libraries and protect others. I'm starting to think that Beechview residents should petition for a reduced tax rate given that city, county and state funds seem to be concentrated elsewhere. If the mayor would ever respond to any questions, I would like to ask him to name just one thing that he's done to 'specifically' help Beechview. What it boils down to is; in these difficult economic times, what are more affluent neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill losing when it seems as though other neighborhoods like Beechview and Hazelwood are losing so much?

“Please note that I revised my distance numbers for the distance from Squirrel Hill to the Main Branch, as I was using the 'half-mile' distance I read from a Post-Gazette article and I wanted to verify.

Beechview Library Branch:
Open 5 days/week (closed Fri. & Sun.)
37 total hrs/week (9 hrs evenings & weekend)
1.35 miles from Brookline Branch(Library to library location)(No public transportation between neighborhoods and must cross major/dangerous W. Liberty Ave. intersection)

Hazelwood Library Branch:
Open 5 days/week (closed Mon. & Sun.),
36 total hours/week (10 hrs evenings & weekend)
2.7 miles from Squirrel Hill Branch or 2.69 miles from South Side Branch

Carrick Library Branch:
Open 5 days/week (closed Mon. & Sun.)
37 total hours/week (8 hrs evenings & weekend)
1.22 miles from Knoxville Branch(Bus service available - 51C)

Lawrenceville Library Branch:
Open 5 days/week (closed Fri. & Sun.)
39 total hrs/week (only 7 hrs evenings & weekend)
1.94 miles to East Liberty Branch(Bus service available - 86B or 91A w/transfer to 500)

West End Library Branch:
Open 4 days/week (closed Mon., Fri. & Sun.)
26 total hours/week (only 8 hrs evenings & weekend)
2.01 miles from Sheraden Branch (Bus service available - 26A, 26D)

Squirrel Hill Library Branch:
Open 7 days/week,
52 total hours/week (14 hours evenings & weekend)
1.67 miles to Main Branch(14 blocks)(Library to Library location) (Bus service available - 59U, 61A, 61B, 61C)

“This hours of operation information is based upon information posted on and distances from I've defined evening hours as 6:00 p.m. and beyond. The bus routes are from calls to PAT Transit's Customer Service Phoneline.

"You may definitely use this information in anyway that you feel will help the cause. It is not necessary to be credited at all. My benefit will be when we save our library and that's all I'm interested in."
This came from N.R.'s Facebook page. The author is unknown to me now. I'll ask.

I'm wondering where Glenn Walsh is on this issue? Did he just give up on the city?


Anonymous said...

Based only on transportation issues Beechview should be saved.

Factor in the disrespect shown to residents on so many levels for so very long and you have to wonder if more is at play here from a city neighborhood perspective. Tell me again where the Wagner family lives. I know I have gone adrift of the library issue, but I am just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Glenn Walsh didn't give up on the city, he can't......HE DOESN'T LIVE IN THE CITY, HE LIVES IN MT. LEBANON!!!!

Did you know that only Mt. Lebanon residents are allowed to speak at Mt. Lebanon council meetings? Maybe Pittsburgh city council should start the same procedure.

Did you know that he was told to 'go back to Mt. Lebanon!' and 'You don't even live here!' at one of the pat public meetings on library renovations?

Do you ever wonder if Glenn even uses a library? What's his beef, really? Is he that much of an architecture nut, that nothing is ever allowed to change, even if it benefits the people who use it? How would he like to work all summer long in an un-air conditioned building like the South Side library? I highly doubt he would. Put him in there for a few straight days of 90 degrees with adew point of 67 and see if he starts singing a different song.

I know one of his big beefs was when Hazelwood closed. Why? Was he that impressed with how little it was used, or was it the drug deals that took place outside of it, or was it the juvenile delinquents who terrorized it andn the staff after school let out each day? Which one of these did he want to see continue?

I'm sick and tired of people like Glenn who pull out the "I used to come here when I was a child and it should never change/close/be renovated" who haven't been in "their" library in 40 years! What about the people who actually use it today? If people benfitted from the libraries as 'state of the art' facilities of their day, why can't people of today enjoy the same privilages?

Grow up people! What's more important - bricks or books?

Mark Rauterkus said...

None will be using any library in Hazelwood now. They moved it. Now they closed the one they moved into. And, Glenn was right on the mark. His worries were justified and have come to be true (again).

That isn't progress -- it is regression to nothingness. You can stand on that side if you wish.

Frankly, we need a lot of help in the city, even from those elsewhere. I'll take the thoughtful care and concern every day of the week.

So, do you want to close the South Side Libary too, because it does not have air conditioning?

I don't.

Anonymous said...

This evening (October 24) marks the 70th anniversary of one of the pioneers of planetarium and science center education: Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. The dedication ceremony took place at 8:30 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, 1939 October 24.

It was the first publicly-owned building in the City, and possibly the State, to be constructed with air-conditioning, absolutely necessary since none of the public areas had windows. The modest, 40,000 square-foot building on three floors and a lower level, included 15,000 square feet in five exhibit galleries (the Institute of Popular Science), a Planetarium Theater (Theater of the Stars), 250-seat Lecture Hall (Little Science Theater), 800-volume Science Library/Board Room, and a Gift Counter.

An astronomical observatory was usable on the third floor, with a 4-inch Zeiss Terrestrial Refractor Telescope. Although an astronomical telescope had been ordered, the onset of World War II prohibited return and replacement of the terrestrial telescope. The Observatory's primary telescope, a 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, was completed in 1941.

The evening dedication ceremony, attended by many scientists, public officials, and civic leaders, was aired on three Pittsburgh radio stations (KQV, KDKA, and WWSW) either live or on-delay. The ceremony occured in Buhl Planetarium's Theater of the Stars, with nearly 500 seats under a 65-foot diameter, stainless-steel dome.

In the Theater of the Stars, the dignitaries saw the first planetarium projector, a Zeiss Mark II (last such projector produced before World War II, as well as the last Zeiss II ever built), to be mounted on an elevator. This custom-built Westinghouse worm-gear elevator allowed the projector to be lowered below floor level, into the Zeiss Pit, so the theater could be used for other purposes. A small stage also formed while the projector was in the Zeiss Pit.

The Theater of the Stars also unveiled the first permanent theatrical stage in a planetarium theater, which was separate from the small stage over the Zeiss Pit. Over the years, this was used for many different types of productions, as well as playing an important role in the annual "Star of Bethlehem" Christmas sky drama.

The first planetarium show was titled, "Stars Over Pittsburgh."

Anonymous said...

The next day, Buhl Planetarium opened to the public. Admission to the Institute of Popular Science exhibit galleries was free-of-charge for the first year, while there was a small admission charge for the planetarium show.

For a one-dollar, refundable, deposit fee, hearing-impaired visitors could use a headset to hear the planetarium show. Both air-conduction and bone-conduction headsets were available, which plugged into special receptacles along one section of the planetarium theater wall. This was the first sound-system in a planetarium theater (and, perhaps, in any theater) specially designed for the hearing-impaired.

The Buhl Planetarium building closed as a public museum on 1991 August 31; a mile away on the north bank of the Ohio River, The Carnegie Science Center opened on 1991 October 5. The Buhl Planetarium building continued to host Science Center science and computer classes until February of 1994, when the building was completely closed.

The Carnegie Science Center attempted to sell the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, in 1995, to a college south of Dallas, which only intended to display the equipment as antique artifacts. After petitioning for a special public hearing before Pittsburgh City Council, a grass-roots public movement stopped this sale.

There were several plans, over the years, for reuse of the Buhl Planetarium building. Until 2004, all had failed for financial and/or political reasons.

In November of 2004, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh (located across the street in the Old Allegheny Post Office) expanded their operation into the Buhl Planetarium building. However, Children's Museum officials insisted that most of the Planetarium artifacts, except for the Foucault Pendulum and Grand Clock, be removed from the building and placed in storage.

The Carnegie Science Center has announced plans to reassemble the Zeiss II Projector as a Science Center exhibit, by late 2010. There has been no word on the reuse of other dismantled artifacts.

Much more of Buhl Planetarium's history can be learned at this web site:

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
Electronic Mail - < >
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
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* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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