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Public library proponents protest state funding cuts

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

By Bob Hoover and Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Mayor Tom Murphy declared yesterday "Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Day," to which library Director Herbert Elish replied: "Every day is Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Day."

Jared Weber, 5, of Friendship holds his sign high at yesterday's rally protesting proposed cuts in state funding for libraries. Jared attended the rally with his father, David. (Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette)

A small but vocal crowd gathered outside the entrance to the main library in Oakland applauded Elish's remarks at a "Save the Library" rally protesting Gov. Ed Rendell's budget plan to cut funding to all public libraries 50 percent.

"We hear that people are listening to us in Harrisburg. The word is getting through, but this is not the end of the work," Elish said.

Also speaking were Frick International Academy student Maddie Chandler; Fred Logan, chairman of the citizens group Homewood Roundtable; library staffers Gladys Maharam and Dallas DiLeo; and Rosemary Fischer of the mayor's office who presented the proclamation.

Calls to retain library funding were also heard in Harrisburg where Marilyn Jenkins, director of the Allegheny County Library Association, joined a busload of local librarians who traveled to the state Capitol to lobby legislators.

"We don't mind shouldering the pain, but we seem to be shouldering most of the burden," said Jenkins, whose organization represents the county's 43 independent libraries and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Miles Dinnen of Shadyside wears his thoughts on his hat yesterday while attending a rally to protest proposed cuts in state funding for public libraries. (Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette)

"There isn't a legislator in Allegheny County [who] doesn't have a library in their constituency."

More than 600 librarians from across the state descended on the Capitol yesterday to complain to state officials.

Rendell's 2003-04 budget slashed spending for libraries statewide from $75.2 million to $37.6 million.

In the current budget, the association received roughly $8 million, half of which went to the Carnegie Library, Jenkins said. A 50 percent cut in the appropriation leaves just $4 million to be shared by the Carnegie and the other libraries, she added.

Bob Hoover can be reached at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634. Johnna Pro can be reached at jpro@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1574.

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