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Grant will transform upper level to usable space
The Allegheny County Regional Asset Board has approved a $750,000 grant to the Carnegie Library of McKeesport to help transform a third-floor storage space into an area usable by the public.
The board voted Thursday to approve five grants totalling $3.8 million from a new Transformative Community Library Fund. Libraries in Braddock, Clairton, Homestead and Swissvale also will receive funding during this round of grants, a spokesman said.
The grant to the McKeesport library will enable the top floor of the 1902 building to be converted from a storage area into meeting space for public events.
Currently, meetings are held in the only available area, the children’s department in the basement.
“Opening one-third of the library’s physical space will allow them to increase programming presence and help rejuvenate the neighborhood by welcoming larger outside groups to hold meetings for the public good, be it civic organizations, health and wellness programs, one-on-one tutoring, social services or cultural enrichment events,” said state Sen. Jim Brewster, who wrote a letter supporting the project.
“We know today’s libraries go well beyond the bookstacks,” said RAD board chair Daniel Griffin in a prepared statement. “A modern library is a community center, a senior center, a technology center, a resume center and much more. These grants will ensure all of Allegheny County’s libraries are equipped to serve everyone.”
RAD is the largest single funder of libraries in Allegheny County, providing nearly $39 million in 2023 alone. These new grants — from RAD’s Transformative Community Library Fund — are intended to supplement annual funding.
The RAD board created the fund to support proposals at libraries that provide essential services and spaces for their communities, a spokesman said.
Other grants being provided in this round of funding include:
Braddock Carnegie Library — $1.25 million toward repair and re-construction of the exterior masonry and vestibule
Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale – $800,000 toward a major capital project to make the library fully accessible for the first time
Clairton Public Library – $500,000 to help move the library to new, purpose-built space on the ground floor of the Clairton Inn Apartments
Carnegie Library of Homestead – $500,000 toward a major capital project to make the historic library building more accessible and increase programming space
All five projects have already secured grants from other governmental and foundational sources, and all are expected to see construction underway by the end of 2023. Each project will improve and enhance the spaces that ensure that a local library can be the hub of its community.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be investing in these libraries,” said RAD executive director Rich Hudic. “Library employees work so hard to provide for the people in their communities, and we have been diligent about making sure that RAD funds go to projects that will be truly transformational.”
James Santelli, RAD spokesman, said RAD, the Allegheny County Library Association and library leaders have been engaged in more than a year of discussions around enhancing the library experience and building capacity to better serve patrons for years to come.
“We hope these grants will continue to motivate and inspire library directors serving patrons that rely on the vital resources inside the four walls of the library,” said RAD program officer Margaret Pike Iddings. “It is our hope that, once completed, we will see these libraries boost the quality of life for their patrons individually and community collectively.”
The Regional Asset District is funded by Allegheny County’s 1 percent sales tax. The Transformative Community Library Fund was created in 2022 with a $5 million initial outlay to guide four years of investments in Allegheny County’s public libraries.
RAD staff and the RAD Board’s library committee will continue to discuss proposals with library leaders for additional projects, Santelli said.
Originally published May 18, 2023.