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West End Library Closes Chapter on Series of Renovations

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s West End branch might be a historic landmark, but its story is still being written.

The library will reopen to the public Saturday after a seven-month, $1.7 million renovation.

The library is inviting the community to the grand re-opening celebration, which will, among other things, include self-guided tours and 3D printing demonstrations.

“What was really nice about this process as well as the other process that we do for our library renovations is we really had community feedback,” Suzanne Thinnes, Communications Manager, said. “So we had a series of community meetings prior to the start of the renovation where the community could talk with the architect and talk about how they use the library and what they would like to see in their building.”

Thinnes said she thinks the biggest change library patrons will notice during the summer is the installation of air conditioning.

“It is a historic building that did not have air conditioning until this year,” Thinnes said. “So you can imagine how uncomfortable it would be in the summer months for not only our staff but our customers.”

The exterior of the library has a new slate roof, refurbished wood framed windows and cleaned-up masonry and brick veneers.

According to Thinnes, they had to be mindful of the outside renovations because of the 115-year old library’s status as a historic landmark.

“With a historic landmark, we cannot differ from the exterior of the building, so basically what you will see is the cosmetic improvements to the space such as the roof, the re-pointing of the building, kind of giving it a freshened look,” Thinnes said. “The major changes are in the interior of the building.”

Those changes include the replacement of the heating, lighting and electrical systems and the library’s first elevator to make the building more accessible.

“The building itself was constructed in 1899, it was one of the first original branch libraries funded by Carnegie Library,” Thinnes said. “And when it was built it was not accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, obviously, and that building has not been updated in that capacity for a while.”

She said they also refurbished the bathrooms and constructed a new customer service desk that is height adjustable.

The ribbon-cutting celebration is at 10 a.m. with the open house running until 2 p.m.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.