Pittsburgh City Council will take a final vote Tuesday to approve a $500,000 state grant to renovate Knoxville Library.
The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Award would help cover the costs of adding a second public meeting space and a new teen area to the library, as well as structural updates to comply with ADA accessibility mandates.
According to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Assistant Director of Neighborhood Libraries Mary Monaghan, the Knoxville branch was built in the 1960s and hasn’t been renovated since.
“We are going to be completely modernizing and updating the interior of the library to really reflect the way people use libraries now,” Monaghan said.
And that means technological advances. Fifty years ago, library-goers weren’t worried about where they were going to charge their laptops. But now, that seems to be their biggest concern, according to Monaghan, who said the Knoxville location has the highest percentage of public computer use of all the Carnegie libraries.
“What we’ll be able to do with this renovation is really have furniture and seating that is designed for computer use and a lot of outlets for folks who want to come in and work with their own device,” she said. “They’ll be able to do that without stretching an extension cord across an aisleway.”
After the estimated $3 million renovation, Monaghan also said the public will have greater access to the library’s collection of online databases.
Despite all the tech updates, Monaghan said books are still the library’s main concern.
“Our brand is books,” she said. “That’s what people think of when they think of the library and we take that very seriously. We take very seriously our obligation to provide the materials that our community is looking for.”
But that obligation will be put on hold for a while because the building will close for a year starting in July for the renovations. During this time, Monaghan said the librarians will be in local schools and summer camps to keep up the library’s presence in the community.
Knoxville will be the 15th Carnegie Library to get a facelift. The Beechview branch is expected to reopen in July after being closed for a year. It received similar tech upgrades as well as an elevator to make it ADA compliant. The Carrick and Mt. Washington libraries will be the last two facilities to be renovated.
“The usage has gone up and has stayed up,” Monaghan said. “So we know that, by making the libraries accessible and welcoming and new, more people are introduced to library services and stay in touch with library services than they did before we did the renovations.”
Pittsburgh City Council approved the Keystone grant in a preliminary vote last week.