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New Library Director Optimistic about Future, Finances

The incoming leader of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is eager to direct the system out of choppy financial waters and to begin expanding services online and at branch locations.

The library system's Board of Trustees has named Mary Frances Cooper the system's new President and Director. She assumes the position on New Year's Day.

As the current Deputy Director of Pittsburgh's public library system, Cooper has managed several major departments for the past three years. Prior to her employment with the Carnegie Library, she worked in the administrations of various other cities' public library systems, including those of New York City, Minneapolis, and Louisville.

The incoming director is confident that Pittsburgh's newly-approved special tax to benefit the library will help the system emerge from financial distress. Combined with improved fundraising efforts and an increased allocation from the Allegheny County Regional Asset District, Cooper said that the Carnegie Library will be able to restore hours recently cut by many neighborhood branches.

"Right now, in many branches, we're not open either Monday or Friday, depending on the location," said Cooper. "But in 2012, we are going to open our libraries every day after school, so that kids can come to do homework, and every workday, so people who are looking for jobs or need help with their job search assistance can visit the library and get that help."

The Past and the Present

Cooper said that one major part of her job is to safeguard the historical documents of Pittsburgh's past.

"They represent over 100 years of community investment, and we're stewarding that for future generations, and that's really important," said Cooper. "But I think equally important is the work we do in the neighborhoods, and in the communities. I think that is where we make a significant difference in people's lives every day, and to me, that's probably the most important part of what we do."

To that end, Cooper said that the library will roll out more internet resources, including a program for outreach to teenagers, and more e-books for reading devices like iPads and Kindles. Particularly exciting to the new director is a federally-funded project to digitize the library's many archives regarding Pittsburgh's role in the iron and steel industries.

"We're putting that together in one resource that will be up on our website starting early next year, and will be available to people across the community, and actually across the world," said Cooper.

Cooper was chosen by the Library's Board of Trustees in a unanimous decision after interviewing 40 applicants for the job. She replaces former Director Barbara Mistick, who announced her departure from the Carnegie Library earlier this year to serve as President of Wilson College in central Pennsylvania.