The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s mission is vital to our neighborhoods, providing access to books, the Internet, an expert professional staff and numerous resources. Inadequate funding has resulted in significant cutbacks in library hours and services in recent years.
The Our Library, Our Future voter initiative allows all voters in the City of Pittsburgh to have a say in the future of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In an attempt to ensure that voters are making educated decisions about the Nov. 8 ballot question, we would like to correct some of the misinformation in Abby Wisse Schachter’s recent column about the initiative,” Library had options other than tax hike, Oct. 27.
The voter initiative was one of six recommendations that the Joint Task Force developed to ensure sustainable long-term funding for the library. Instead of a tiered list, the six recommendations are intended to work in conjunction with one another. Though the ballot referendum is the most public of the six, the library is putting in the same effort to pursuing the other five. Local volunteers have been working since June to collect signatures, get the referendum question on the ballot, and canvass the city to get people out to the polls on Nov. 8. The process to pass a referendum of this sort is difficult, however it is critical to the long-term sustainable funding that the library requires.
When voters cast their ballots on Nov. 8, they will be voting specifically for a 0.25 mill tax. The rate is fixed and cannot be raised without going through another ballot measure.
Our elected officials recognize the importance of libraries to their constituents. Many have worked diligently on library funding and support the six approaches, including the voter referendum, as the best options to sustain our system.
The library staff, trustees, elected officials and volunteers are doing everything we can to ensure that the library can continue to provide the critical resources that the community wants and needs. Libraries make a difference as will your vote on Nov. 8.
Carolyn Hess Abraham,
(The authors are trustees of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.)
Support our library, our future
On Nov. 8, our community will vote to decide if Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will have a dedicated source of funding that will help to sustain the critical services that the library has provided for more than 115 years.
In addition to hundreds of thousands of books and reference works, our library provides invaluable programs for children, classes and job training opportunities that engage the community in literacy and lifetime learning, computer access, and help for people looking for jobs, seeking to improve their knowledge or intending to help their community.
My 4-year-old twin grandsons, Zachary and Eli, go to the Squirrel Hill branch every week. They love story time, borrow piles of books, and are on a great start to a life of literary engagement and growth.
Supporters of the Our Library, Our Future initiative are asking Pittsburgh residents to vote YES on a referendum on the ballot in November for a 0.25 mill special tax on all taxable real estate in the City of Pittsburgh to be allocated and used only for the maintenance and operation of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. (This is the equivalent of $25 per year or $2.09 per month on $100,000 of assessed value.)
This initiative was not undertaken lightly. Our libraries are underfunded and desperately need steady funding. The voter initiative was one of six recommendations that a Public-Private Task Force on Sustainable Library Funding suggested for the library. The library has reduced staff, reduced hours and has successfully pursued efficiency, but it must have reliable and dedicated funding in order to continue serving the community.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is about more than books — it is about education, learning, and equal access to information. With more than 2.5 million visitors each year, the library is a community anchor. Just visit any library and you will find a beehive of activity.
I know that times are tough for many people in Pittsburgh, but this vote is worth it. When we vote for the library, we see a strong return on our investment in the form of after-school programs, job search assistance, computer access, and a place for our community to come together. If we want Pittsburgh’s economy to grow, if we want Pittsburgh to remain one of the best places to live, and if we want to see our economy grow, we must support this essential service.
Contributions are not enough
The Carnegie Library and its task force worked long and hard to find solutions to the library’s financial problems. Contrary to Abby Wisse Schachter’s opinion piece (“Library had options other than tax hike,” Oct. 27), a modest tax hike to support the libraries would not be controlled by the libraries or politicians but by the voters. We are being asked to accept or reject a raise of .025 percent, $25 annually per $100,000 of property, not a raise of however much the city or its leaders desire. The amount of the tax would be raised only if the voters agree to raise it in another referendum.
How Ms. Schachter could believe that selling T-shirts, hats or bags or having bake sales would raise $5 million is unfathomable. The libraries do conduct used book and other sales, but the amount raised doesn’t and can’t begin to approach the shortfall. Remember, we almost lost five of the 19 branches in 2009 for lack of funds. The library does intend to continue asking for voluntary contributions, but that, too, cannot be the entire solution. Do we ask for voluntary contributions to build and repair our roads and bridges or underwrite city pensions?
Ms. Schachter also suggests the city should prioritize the library over other services if we value it so much. Surely anyone who follows news of the city knows that it does not have sufficient funds to meet the library’s needs.
A small, fixed property tax is the best way to avoid closing libraries and reducing hours and services. Please vote yes to the referendum on Nov. 8.
(The author is treasurer of Friends of the Carnegie Library, Squirrel Hill Branch.)
Independence needs protection
Kudos on the Chronicle’s recent designation as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. It is clear that the Chronicle is taking steps to protect its future as a vital community resource in these hard times for newspapers. In your article announcing the change, you quote Pittsburgh Jewish Publication and Education Foundation President Rich Kitay as saying “The grants from various private foundations along with corporate and individual tax-deductible donations will help to ensure that the Chronicle will continue to be an informative and strong voice of the Jewish community.”
Under this new status, can you also ensure your readers that the Chronicle will continue to be an independent voice in the Jewish community? What safeguards are being put in place to ensure that editorial content does not fall under the sway of major donors and that the honest journalism the Pittsburgh Jewish community has come to depend upon isn’t tainted by the need to placate corporations, organizations, and individuals who are filling revenue holes?
(Editor’s note: The Chronicle has been called many things over the years, and of those that are printable, “tenacious” is one of the most often used. The Chronicle has a reputation of doggedly sniffing out the truth, regardless of where that truth may be found, and there are no plans to change that. As for biting the hand that feeds you, if anything, 501 (c)(3) money makes it easier to seek out the truth, to maintain objectivity and credibility, than advertising; donations are an up-front commitment — an investment based on the big picture — whereas advertising can be erratic and volatile — affected by the heat of the moment. The Chronicle will never hesitate to create friction in the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community so long as that movement is in the direction of making the community a better, more just place for all its members; you cannot have movement without friction. More than any mechanism or policy, the publication of opinions on all sides of an issue, be it in the form of letters to the editor and/or contributing guest columnists, will ensure the Chronicle’s ongoing objectivity and credibility.)