Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Tries to Keep Legacy Alive in Allegheny Depository

Article excerpt

Sheila Jackson lifted a giant, leather-bound volume of 19th- century architectural drawings from its shelf in the former Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny on the North Side, and opened it to portraits of huge Italian churches and the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Other books with cracked and crumbling spines hold centuries' worth of architecture from Japan, Italy, France and Indonesia, in languages including German, French, and Chinese.

"When people look these up, we're one of only three or four places in the world that has these," said Jackson, assistant director of main library services for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The Allegheny Depository, located in the old Carnegie Free Library since 2003, is one of eight facilities that would close, move or consolidate next year. The library system's goal is to save $1.6 million and balance its 2010 operating budget.

Among the depository's collections are about 140,000 art and architecture folios, British patent documents and technical and scientific journals, including some bought with money from Andrew Carnegie.

"When Carnegie founded the library, he was interested in educating his employees and encouraging economic development," Jackson said. "He gave $20,000 to buy the journals to start a technology collection, and created one of the first science and technology collections in the country."

Although many journals are intended to be strictly academic, Carnegie wanted his library to hold some that would educate people on how to improve business and industry efficiency, or how to develop products, she said. Researchers from steel and other Pittsburgh industries borrowed titles such as "Acta Chemica" or "Reactor Science and Technology" from the collection, then housed in the Main Library in Oakland, according to a bibliography of acquisitions circulated each year.

Other periodicals such as "The National Review," "The Presbyterian Banner" and "AFL-CIO News" are kept in volumes from the mid-1800s until 1969.

The depository building closed to the public after lightning damaged it in 2006. …