Our libraries across Allegheny County have had many champions over the years. More than a dozen of our libraries bear the distinctive mark of Andrew Carnegie. He constructed 1,700 library buildings in the United States, but he wanted to ensure that local communities would support those facilities going forward. He donated the buildings to the communities, leaving the responsibility of supporting them in local hands. He understood the value of a public / private partnership in ensuring the future of libraries.
When Frank Lucchino became a library champion (actually, a library convert!), he, too, understood the value of pairing public and private investment in libraries. Together with Doreen Boyce, then Director of the Buhl Foundation, they raised more than $10 million to build the Electronic Information Network (eiNetwork), the technology backbone of our current library system. Foundations stepped to the line, along with Allegheny County. That initial investment is maintained today through a combination of funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (ARAD), the federal eRate program, and local library operating dollars.
In the early 1990’s, suburban libraries joined forces to advocate for funding from the newly established ARAD. They proposed a distribution formula that recognized and rewarded municipal investment. Local funding was viewed as an essential piece of a complete financial plan, and that same belief helps direct the distribution of ARAD funds to libraries today.
Earlier this year libraries lost a very dear champion, Bernita Buncher. Through her leadership at the Buncher Family Foundation, Bernita helped to establish the Love Your Library campaign. The Foundation provided matching dollars to leverage individual gifts and donations every September for the past five years. That campaign has generated nearly $5 million for libraries.
There have been many library champions – but in every case success has been realized through partnerships that leverage local investment. Our libraries are fortunate to receive revenue from the State and the County’s extra 1% sales tax, but they will only remain strong with the commitment of local government and individuals who value library service. We are grateful to all our champions. You, too, can be a library champion – see how at https://aclalibraries.org/new/get-involved/.