Andrew Carnegie's requirement for $40,000 to maintain the Pittsburgh library system in 1895 has never been adjusted for inflation. Using Federal Reserve Bank records and calculations, that $40,000 would be equivalent to $1,021,000 in today's currency. How do I know this? The reference librarian at the Oakland library found out in five minutes after I asked him. No other service in our city provides such fast and useful information to the public. If the city of Pittsburgh had maintained its support in light of changing monetary values, the library would be in far better shape today.
Let me add that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is an icon in the library profession and is known worldwide as the first urban library system. Carnegie used it as the pattern for producing larger systems in New York, Philadelphia and other cities. The directors of our library have sometimes been notable leaders in the profession. Director Ralph Munn was invited to design the library systems of Australia and New Zealand based on our system. Robert Croneberger spoke persuasively before the Supreme Court on behalf of freedom of expression during the censorship debates in 1991 when the federal government was about to drop funding for the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts, and he saw the court vote on behalf of freedom, and helped save the funding. When our library administrators visit other countries they are treated with great respect because they represent our Pittsburgh system.
As we fight to save our branches, we should know that a larger world of librarians will pay attention to our progress.
ROBERT J. GANGEWERE
The writer was editor of Carnegie Magazine for 31 years. He is the author of "Palace of Culture: Andrew Carnegie's Institute and Library in Pittsburgh," which is scheduled for publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press.