IN Shaler Summer 2017 - Page 44

Library Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) libraries are at the epicenter of shifts in education and workforce development. W e are fortunate to have community libraries throughout Allegheny County that provide residents of all ages with valuable resources. Many of those who have not visited a library in the past decade or so may wonder, “Why do we still need libraries?” It’s been 25 years since Frank Lucchino, then Allegheny County Controller, issued a special report—“A Quiet Crisis: Libraries in Allegheny County.” This nearly 100-page report offered an in-depth discussion on the state of Allegheny County’s libraries and the problems each of the independent institu- tions faced. The dawn of the “Information Age” threatened to leave libraries behind, and funding was scarce. In fact, Allegheny County ranked at the bottom nationally for per capita dollars spent on libraries. Roofs were leaking, paint was peeling and HVAC systems were failing. The report concluded that Allegheny County’s libraries needed to identify a new stable source of operating support and establish a broad-based organization to take advantage of potential economies of scale. Libraries accepted the call to action and 42 724.942.0940 TO ADVERTISE | Shaler banded together. Twenty-five years later, the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), with the cooperation of its 46 member libraries, has met the challenges identified in “A Quiet Crisis” in ways that couldn’t have been imagined in the early ’90s. With strong (and loud) backing from county residents, library service was recognized as an essential community need. When state legislation created the Allegheny Regional Asset District (ARAD), libraries advocated for a piece of the one percent sales tax revenue. In fact, since 1995, the ARAD Board has awarded nearly one-third of its funds to support community libraries. That support has resulted in widespread facility renovations, increased service hours, expanded programming and state-of-the-art technology tools.