Dear Penn Hills Residents:
The Penn Hills Library currently operates as a department of Penn Hills municipal government. A plan is under consideration that would make the library an independent non-profit. Since March 2020, library and municipal leaders have been exploring the benefits of becoming an independent community library. We are now ready to share what we have learned, and hear what you have to say about this idea.
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been developed so that you can learn about what a possible change means and how it can improve library services in Penn Hills. Both the Library Advisory Board and Library Foundation have endorsed the non-profit library model, because of the benefits it will bring to our community.
As residents and lifelong advocates of Penn Hills Library, we believe that this is an opportunity to improve current service models and pursue grants that are not available to a government agency. Our goal is to increase library funding and improve what is already a great library service that Penn Hills residents know and expect.
If you love the library as much as we do, then we hope you take the time to learn more about what is being considered. We want you to be informed and know what a possible change might mean for Penn Hills.
Kim Dawson – President, Library Advisory Board
Meryl Thomas – President, Library Foundation
Why is a change to non-profit status under consideration?
Because a non-profit status would make a great Penn Hills Library even better. The biggest reason is that a non-profit library can pursue foundation grants that are not available to government agencies. Second, an independent status would give the library more flexibility in managing its staff, decision making, and providing community-oriented programs.
What other libraries operate as a non-profit?
Most libraries in Allegheny County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania operate as independent non-profit organizations successfully with favorable community response. Most libraries are not government-run like the Penn Hills Library. For example, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a non-profit, and the New York Public Library as well. If the non-profit model is a bad idea less libraries would use it.
Who will oversee the library if this change takes place?
The library would be operated by a five to seven-member Library Board appointed by the Mayor and Council of Penn Hills with consent from library leadership. The board would be made up of residents of the Penn Hills community that know and love our library. The Library Board has existed for many years and has meetings every month. A change to non-profit status would allow the people who know the library the best to make decisions about the library and the services it offers.
How would this change benefit the community?
This change will enable the library to be more responsive to community needs at our two locations: Stotler Road and Lincoln Park. As a nonprofit, the library will also be able to pursue foundation grants for services and programs that a government entity cannot access. The Library Board will be empowered to make decisions about the library that reflect the needs and wants of the community.
What are the drawbacks to having a non-profit?
There really are none that we know of.
Is this just a backdoor plan designed to cut or close the Library?
No. We believe the Library is a true asset to Penn Hills and the eastern suburbs. Changing to a non-profit model could lead to foundation grants which, in turn, could help the Municipality’s budget. Ultimately, the Municipality of Penn Hills allots funding to the library annually, whether it’s a non-profit or a department of government.
How would this non-profit entity be funded?
The lion’s share of the library’s funding would continue to come from the Municipality of Penn Hills, through your tax dollars. The other key funding components for the Library come from the State of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny County Regional Asset District (RAD). The core funding sources for the Library will not change if a non-profit is formed.
If this is such a great idea, why hasn’t it already happened?
Because it represents change and change sometimes happens slowly. It is easier to keep status quo than it is to try a new way forward that could better serve the community.
Why is this being considered right now?
Because times are changing and our service model needs to change with it. With all that happened in 2020, it gave library leaders the time to think this through and put a plan together.
What due diligence has the Library Board done to know this is a good idea?
A steering committee was created to explore the concept. The committee met regularly with leadership of Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) and obtained valuable advice and knowledge about operating as an independent non-profit. ACLA, the regional library consultants, is highly supportive of the transition.
What would changing to non-profit status mean for library service?
Library patrons would not see any difference in services. Library patrons will experience a seamless transition from government management to community leadership. The Penn Hills Library will be in a position to model exceptional public service with a focus on community building and engagement.
What would happen to the people who currently work at the Library?
All current library employees will be invited to apply for open positions.
What can I do to get involved?
You can continue to support the Penn Hills Library by utilizing the wide array of resources the library has to offer. You can also attend Library Board meetings, which have been and will continue to be open to the public.
When would this possible change take place?
This change is currently under consideration by Penn Hills Mayor and Council. In order for it to happen, an agreement between the Library Board and Municipality would need to be approved at a future council meeting. It is up to the Mayor and Council of Penn Hills to decide if this change is right for Penn Hills.
Would this change be reversible?
Yes. If for some reason it made sense for the library to be government managed, then the change is easily reversed. The Municipality of Penn Hills will always own the land, building and maintain the library facility.
What happens if this change to non-profit doesn’t happen?
The Library will still continue to provide great services to residents, whether it’s government-run or whether it’s led by a community board of directors.
How can I give my feedback to this plan?
The best way to tell us what you think is to email firstname.lastname@example.org and give your feedback. If you like the idea, tell us. If you don’t, we still want to hear from you and hope you tell us what your concerns are. We value all input and have developed this page to give you as much information as possible.