The Big Beaver Falls Area School District has sold a building housing the Carnegie Free Library to its board of trustees for $1. Library officials are now asking for the public’s help in repairing the facility as they work to expand programs for neighborhood children.
Beaver Falls Carnegie Library Board President Ray Gutowski attended Thursday’s meeting of the Beaver Falls School Board to thank its members for transferring ownership of the building.
“With the planned improvements to downtown Beaver Falls, we also hope to both preserve and maintain the building for many years to come,” Gutowski told board members.
The library opened at its current location in 1903 after receiving a grant for its construction from Andrew Carnegie in 1899.
“Andrew Carnegie, when he was giving out those grants for libraries, required you have a sponsoring body in order to receive the grant,” Gutowski told BeaverCountian.com.
“So when the people of Beaver Falls applied, the school board stepped in and said they would act as a sponsor to make sure the contract was carried out and the building was indeed built.”
Gutowski said the building has been owned by the school district since that day, but budget constraints have severely limited the amount of funding the district has been able to donate each year to maintain the facility.
“We had to decide, do we want to move the library to a new building or preserve the library in the building it’s in,” said Gutowski.
“With us now owning the building, it will be easier to apply for grants, rather than have the school board apply for the grants on our behalf. … It’s the best way to go for everybody every way around.”
The library will maintain its close relationship with the district by having a school board member continue to serve on its board of trustees.
Gutowski is a lifetime resident of Beaver Falls and lives about three blocks from the library. He said it’s been evolving into a programs-focused organization which he believes will ensure a promising future.
“Our approach is to concentrate on continuing the education process for children after school, in the evenings, on weekends, and in the summer,” said Gutowski. “Educating our community’s children is a common goal we share with the school board.”
The Carnegie Library Board of Trustees is working to re-energize the organization at the same time it works to repair its building.
“We hired a new librarian in December, Rachel Crisci. She’s very well versed, very personable, and we think she’ll do well in helping to promote the library,” said Gutowski.
“We really have a very energetic board of trustees right now as far as fundraising goes and staging different events to raise money. We are excited about this and we hope to keep the ball rolling for the next generation.”
Although the library building is in need of many repairs, Crisci told the Beaver Falls School Board she is dedicated to seeing it revamped.
“There is a lot of decay, and the maintenance hasn’t been as good as it should have been. I am very focused on preserving our building, because without our building we don’t have a library and we don’t have somewhere for our kids and the community to come. … That is probably my number one job, and I didn’t think that would be my number one job as a librarian. It has been a learning experience for me, and I’m very passionate about it.”
Crisci launched a “Raise The Roof” campaign on the social fundraising site GoFundMe.com this week, asking community members to “buy a shingle” for $25 to help come up with the estimated $200,000 it will cost to replace the roof.
Along with her focus on the library’s physical structure, Crisci said she is already hard at work on the trustees’ priority of implementing new educational opportunities for the community.
“We are the only library in Beaver County that offers an after school program, which is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based. … We are all working towards a common goal for our children, teens, and young adults in our community. … PNC has funded us to be part of Inquire Within, which is a WQED/PBS kid-based resource outlet. … We’re very excited.”
That program will be one of the new offerings to come with the library’s official summer kickoff on May 18, which is also when the library will be introducing a new layout to the public.
The March 21 meeting of the Big Beaver Falls Area School Board, which can be watched in its entirety at the top of this report, was recorded by BeaverCountian.com multimedia contributor Matthew LaComb.