Last year, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh received some 2,200,000 visits to our Main Library and its 18 Branches. We circulated some 2,600,000 items...answered 2,029,707 customer questions...and provided computer access to more than half a million people. What's more, 2000 saw substantial improvements in a number of key performance areas:

Through the efforts of our library staff, volunteers and supporters, we've accomplished much over the last year. Our achievements are ones in which we can take justifiable pride. But to make our library system one that Pittsburgh and the surrounding region truly deserves, we need to do more-much more. Data from similar cities (selected from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Benchmarks series) shows that where library facilities have been improved, they've assumed a significantly greater role in peoples' lives. Indeed, of the library systems in the 14 cities chosen by the Post-Gazette, all have renovated, relocated or built ten new libraries on average since 1990. The result? An average increase of 40 percent in library visits and 16 percent in circulation.

The lessons for Pittsburgh are clear: We can't have a great city-or a prosperous regional economy-without great libraries. And if we take seriously the notion that knowledge and information are the fuel of today's economy, then our region needs to make sure that fuel is in plentiful supply.

In the coming months, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be launching a $79 million capital program-the largest in our history-aimed at making our library system an institution every citizen of Pittsburgh, and indeed the whole region, can enjoy and take pride in. The money will help us rebuild our libraries-help make them convenient, accessible and up to date. It will bring our libraries closer to the communities they serve and bring them more into line with the needs of those communities.

We want to bring Andrew Carnegie's vision-"Free to the People"-to all the people of metropolitan Pittsburgh. We want to give every citizen a reason to make the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh an essential destination-whether it's getting help at tax time...keeping the kids entertained...researching a new career...or exchanging ideas with interesting people. And we want to give our customers new reasons, each time they visit, to keep coming back.

It's time the library became a premier destination for everyone. And that, may I suggest, means you.

Herbert Elish