After more than a year of organizing, activism and fund-raising, a library will be opening in Millvale on June 2 – even though it's not quite what its founders originally had in mind.
In April 2007, during a community cleanup, Tricia George and Brian Wolovich got the idea to fill one of the borough's empty buildings with a full-size library. The closest existing libraries are at least three miles away in Shaler, Sharpsburg or Lawrenceville. (See "Activists trying to get a read on a library for Millvale," City Paper, Nov. 1, 2007).
Aside from the local Boys and Girls Club, Wolovich says, "there's not a lot for [the children] to do around here. ... The kids deserve an opportunity to be in a literacy-dense environment."
Though they're still eyeing a permanent public library in the borough, the pair has scaled back their immediate plans to create a summer children's program. The temporary library will be installed in the Millvale Community Center on Lincoln Avenue, and be open Tuesday through Saturday. While the program is currently slated to run only through August, Wolovich and George hope it gets used enough to prove there's a desire for a full library in Millvale.
"The long-term strategy hasn't changed," says Wolovich, a teacher and board chairman of local nonprofit New Sun Rising.
The scaled-down version of the library took root when Wolovich and George began seeking grant money to purchase a building. Among their pitches was a $75,000 request from the Grable Foundation. It was a lot to ask for, Wolovich acknowledges, but "the downside is they say no, the upside is something happens."
The result? A no with a but ...
Grable didn't cough up the $75,000. But as it turns out, the organization does provide funding for summer children's programs. "So we naturally started to change our lens," Wolovich says.
Grable kicked in close to $10,000 to get the ball rolling. Among other fund-raisers, the Pitt chapter of business fraternity Beta Alpha Psi helped raise more than $2,000 through a charity run/walk in April 2008.
With that help, the library – a project of the New Sun Rising with its own bank account – has hired a librarian and signed a lease for the space in the community center, but there's still a lot to be done.
Furniture -- donated by the Shaler Area School District -- has been moved in, but some of the books must still be culled together from various storage sites. George says they've received donations from school districts, government organizations, civic groups and individuals.
There's no way to tell right now how many volumes they have in total, though George says, she already has "four boxes I couldn't fit in the bathroom."
Wolovich and George say they haven't lost sight of their ultimate ambition, finding a building to convert into an all-ages library. They're just trying not to get ahead of themselves.
Grable and state Sen. Jim Ferlo, the Lawrenceville Democrat who represents Millvale, suggested the library start small. But they also pointed out that if the facility attracts enough interest, finding money to expand it would be a lot simpler. "They said, 'If you're bursting at the seams, people can't say no,'" says George, a University of Pittsburgh student and video instructor with the Braddock Youth Project.
"If everything [goes] perfectly," Wolovich concludes, "we'd have something to roll into."
The library is accepting donations of children's books, DVDs and CDs. For more information, contact Wolovich or George at 412-822-7081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.