In the summer of 2021, the Gismondi Foundation initiated a partnership with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to facilitate special funding to qualifying libraries in Allegheny County through the Gismondi VITAL Library Grant (Versatile Investment to Area Libraries.)
“Local libraries are ‘vital’ institutions in most small communities in Western Pennsylvania,” said John Gismondi. “They not only provide access to books and other written materials, but they also provide a wide range of services for people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, and they are often the only local alternative for public meeting space. We think it is very important to support them in any way we can.”
The impact of the grants, which provide support for literacy programs, spaces and equipment, is already being felt in communities across the region.
“We are very grateful for the support of the Gismondi Foundation,” said Anita Greene-Jones, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Director of Shared Services and County Relations. “These grants gave libraries the opportunity to take on projects and create programs for their communities that might not otherwise have been possible.”
The Library is happy to share and celebrate the projects that these libraries were able to execute over the past year with support from Gismondi VITAL Library Grants.
Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall
The Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall used funds to provide monthly art programs for library users of all ages. The grant supported visiting artist fees and program supplies. “This project was an excellent way to solidify and strengthen our relationships with the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh,” said Walker Evans, Library Director. Participants were able to explore theory, experiment with new techniques, and learn about art traditions from different cultures.
Braddock Carnegie Library Association
The Braddock Carnegie Library Association is currently closed for renovations, so maintaining community connections is especially important. Their grant was applied to their Story Strolls program, which engages families while sharing the community’s rich history. The program is presented in partnership with Braddock’s Battlefield History Center.
Carnegie Library of Homestead
To create a better experience for their “mainly browsing patronage,” Carnegie Library of Homestead invested their funds in ways to better shelve and display their collections. The Gismondi VITAL grant allowed the Library to recreate shelving to match the original pieces from 1898 in their Historic Reading Room. The new shelving now highlights parts of the fiction, nonfiction, and music collections.
Carnegie Library of McKeesport
Funds from the grant allowed Carnegie Library of McKeesport to upgrade or replace several technology items, including a 3D printer, a projector screen, creative software subscriptions, and a double-sided chalkboard. “This grant opportunity gave us a chance to revitalize and re-introduce some of the programming that we used to do before COVID,” said Vincent D’Alesio, Library Director.
Carnegie Library of Swissvale
Carnegie Library of Swissvale invested in Chromebooks and hotspots so that their patrons could have better access to computers and WiFi. Library users can now borrow the equipment and work from home, pursuing employment and educational opportunities.
Millvale Community Library
Millvale Community Library used their Gismondi VITAL Grant funds to enhance programming for teens and make updates to the building’s interior. Purchases included a button maker, Cricut machine (which can cut amazing designs on all types of materials), new bulletin board, a standing desk, and a cataloguing work bench. In addition to enhancing in-demand programming for youth, this funding allows the location to provide more flexibility in how the space is utilized for both patrons and staff.
Wilkinsburg Public Library
Grant funds at Wilkinsburg Public Library were used to upgrade their computer lab. The space was redesigned to better support the community and additional equipment was purchased to provide patrons with more flexibility and efficiency. The changes have allowed the Library to offer a range of computer classes, which have been a special draw for older patrons who are eager to learn how to use a computer. New equipment has also expanded opportunities for offering classes and computer outreach at local senior centers.
VITAL Grants Continuing to Enhance Library Services
“I am very pleased to see that our grants have been used to immediately improve various library operations that directly impact their users … things like community programs, technology and physical infrastructure,” said John.
The next grant cycle is set to begin this month. A committee made up of members of Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) will review proposals from eligible libraries and determine grant awards.
“We are looking forward to providing more support for these libraries in the future. They are ‘vital’ pillars in the local communities,” John said.