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• The Commission on the Future of Libraries in Allegheny County

The Commission on the Future of Libraries in Allegheny County was formed by the Allegheny County Commissioners in response to the 1991 study by County Controller Frank Lucchino. The study, titled A Quiet Crises: Libraries in Allegheny County, documented the problems facing public libraries and generated this response in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial following the implementation of one of the report's recommendations: "Mr. Lucchino has done Allegheny County a service by spelling out the nature of the (library) problem. And, by tapping into the generosity of the Buhl Foundation, he has put the county of the road to a solution."(*1) The Buhl Foundation funded the position of county library administrator for two years to look for creative solutions to the libraries' problems. The Allegheny County Commissioners have since made the administrator a full-time position paid for with county funds.

The commission and the library administrator have provided leadership and encouraged the coordination of services among the forty-six independent public libraries. Their efforts have focused on the following strategic initiatives:

  • Providing public library services to educationally disadvantaged communities through the establishment of Knowledge Connections in public housing communities, and the rescheduling of stops made by the Allegheny County Bookmobiles;
  • Initiating intermunicipal public library development; and
  • Electronically linking municipal libraries to CLP.

Commission members represent Allegheny County government, ACLA, CLP, the Community College of Allegheny County, the State Library of Pennsylvania, and the Buhl Foundation.

A milestone of the commission's success has been Project Link-Up. This pilot project was initiated to connect the independent public libraries to The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh through personal computers, a modem, and public telecommunications networks. Initial funding came from a grant from the Allegheny County Higher Education Building Authority to purchase the hardware, software, and telecommunications equipment for fifteen libraries. The project expanded to include eleven additional libraries when the commission was awarded grant funding for high-speed modems. Thirty independent libraries are currently connected to CLP's on-line catalog (CAROLINE), a listing of 675,000 titles of books, records, and films in its extensive collection. Since Project Link-Up has been established electronic requests for materials has increased by 84 percent with a simultaneous reduction in turnaround time of more than 50 percent.(*2)

Project Link-Up proved that an electronic information network can work in Allegheny County and that thirty independent municipal libraries can cooperate and coordinate library activities.

(*1) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, editorial, "Directing the Libraries," August 30, 1991, p.6.
(*2) The statement describing the Commission was prepared as part of a grant request, June 1994.

The eiNetwork is a collaboration of the Allegheny County Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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