It is hard to believe that it’s been nearly seven months since the pandemic caused widespread closures across Allegheny County. While libraries also closed their doors (temporarily), they continued to serve in a variety of ways. They offered a full range of virtual programming for all ages, online and phone reference support, access to their free WiFi from sidewalks and parking lots. Library staff reached out to community partners to help deliver books and other materials to the public. The eLibrary provided access to electronic books, magazines, music, and videos. Libraries responded and found so many ways to engage and assist in their communities.
Gradually, libraries are reopening their doors. Curbside service saw the return of “real books” and Grab-and-Go bags provide activities for kids. Computer time can be reserved. And some libraries have even welcomed browsers back again. All of this required careful planning and extensive safety measures – and additional cost.
We were able to access a number of emergency funding opportunities. Twenty-nine libraries applied for and received Payroll Protection Program loans. Allegheny County provided CARES Act funding to replace lost revenue from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. ACLA and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh assisted in placing a countywide order for Personal Protective Equipment at reduced rates. Those costs were further offset by CARES Act funding through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Several libraries received CARES Act funding through the Pennsylvania Humanities Council for services to at-risk populations. We have been fortunate to have access to these various funding streams at the moment of crisis.
That said, the road ahead is uncertain financially. Local governments are struggling, which will impact on their ability to fund library services in 2021. The State has not resolved a final budget for the full fiscal year 2020-21. And the recovery of sales tax revenue that supports ARAD assets (including libraries) is unknown as yet. We need your voices to encourage our elected officials to remember the unfailing service of libraries during the most difficult times we’ve all been navigating.
We are grateful to all who value library service and donated to their local library during the Love Your Library campaign in September (it’s never too late to add your donation!). We are also grateful for the generosity of the Jack Buncher Foundation in providing matching funds for this event for the fifth year in a row.
Keeping libraries strong will be a shared responsibility. We welcome your support in accomplishing that.