Fundraising Beyond T-Shirt Sales

Braddock Carnegie Library Seeks to Reach Out Beyond Library Friends for Billion Pennies Project

It’s a fact that museums and organizations have been doing major fundraising for more than a hundred years.  It’s also a fact that public libraries are newer to major fundraising.  Despite who is doing the fundraising, most campaigns start out the same.  Volunteers begin, part-time staff pitch in, and then full-time fundraising positions are created. Braddock Carnegie Library is no different with their efforts to officially kick off their Billion Pennies Project.

Braddock Carnegie Library, the first Carnegie library in the United States, is rallying the troops.  The Braddock Library is in search of a billion pennies.  The $10 million dollar fundraiser kicked off on March 30, 2014 at the 125th anniversary of the library with friends and patrons of the Braddock Library raising the first $15,000. 

Vicki Vargo, executive director, is looking for donors who can see the vision.  She knows it will take a couple of years to reach the goal, but the impact of the money will sustain the 125-year old landmark for years to come. 

“Most know a library as a place to escape.  With some of the disadvantages in our society, Braddock Library offers resources that can’t be found anywhere else.”

Built and dedicated by Andrew Carnegie in 1889 with cultural/recreational facilities added in 1893, the Library was a source of holistic well-being.  The amenities to the library included a Music Hall, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, billiards hall, and a bathhouse in the basement for mill workers to shower. The books were offered at no cost while membership in the Carnegie Club was a modest $1 quarterly.   

In the late 1970s, a group of residents saved the Braddock Library when it was slated for demolition as they voiced the success of the Braddock Library and the positive influence it made on their youth. 

“We know that public libraries are a sacred place, and our neighbors remind us of this every day,” said Vargo.  “The love a student has for reading in the children’s room, the accessibility of the art lending collection… we see happy activities taking place every day.  The Library is truly a place of exchange, and it does not discriminate.”

While Braddock Library continues to offer essential services – books, computers, copy services - exciting programs continue to attract patrons.  And while these services modestly exist today, the Billion Pennies Project is about sustainability of the building, major improvements, and expansion of the underutilized areas.

Some of the programming today includes:

  • Art lending collection with more than 160 pieces
  • Artist in the Library series, “accessible to all as art is not bias”
  • Puppets for Pittsburgh, available for check-out with a library card
  • A print studio, where both artists & non-artists can bring their ideas to life
  • A ceramic studio with open classes for all to create
  • Numerous multi-use rooms available for rent

The process of uplifting the Braddock Library requires partnerships and a financial commitment from a larger group of donors and patrons.  “We know that we are aiming high with our Billion Pennies Project.  We hope that, through our fundraising efforts, new partnerships will form and see the Library as part of a value system based on culture, exchange and life-long learning.”

The Braddock Library has developed simple ways of giving, and will also be establishing special events, memorials as a way to build the endowment, and steps for planned giving.

Dollar Bank in Braddock Hills is a supporter of the Billion Pennies Project.  Anyone wishing to make a penny donation can visit the library during operating hours.