Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

And Then There's Pittsburgh

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

And Then There's Pittsburgh

Article excerpt

An article in this issue tells of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh hiring the RAND Corporation to "examine the factors that impact its ability to obtain stable funding." In addition, RAND was to tell the library how to "right-size its programs and offerings."

I haven't read the RAND report and am unlikely to see it, but I have two reactions to this short report's recommendations.

As far as I know, every public library in the United States is supported largely by public tax funds. Sure, the first lending libraries were subscription libraries, but there are few left. Yes, there's the Boston Athenaeum, which I visited when I was in library school at Simmons and again about a year ago when I happened to be in Boston for lunch and had an hour to spare. It doesn't seem to have changed at all in fifty years or so, but I guess that's the point in Boston. Anyway, it costs money to be a member of the Athenaeum, although for all I know they have an enormous endowment. It certainly must cost a bundle to maintain that building on Beacon Street just down from the State House. When I was there they had a corner for new and popular books which I imagine are in demand by the members. According to their Web site it costs $230 for membership. Takes a lot of memberships to keep that place going, so I imagine they do have an endowment.

There may be other subscription libraries in the country, but there couldn't be many. And I don't know if there are any public libraries which exist on endowment funds only, with no tax support from any source, but I doubt it.

Public libraries get their money from two main sources: appropriation from the local or state government or a tax levy voted on by the citizens. Oh, well, maybe three - some libraries may receive their operating funds from a school district. In any event, it's all tax money.

If Pittsburgh gets its operating funds from the city, it's probably voted on each year by the city council. …

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