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Pittsburgh News - June 5, 2000

Library wants to cut back on trustees

By Vince Guerrieri

When he endowed the library in the town that bears his name, Andrew Carnegie approved a board of 17 trustees to run it.

There would be 10 life trustees, plus the borough mayor and council as the seven ex-officio trustees. But a century later, the current board for the Andrew Carnegie Free Library wants to reduce the number of trustees and the amount of time they serve.

They say the change to 12 trustees in all is vital to the survival of the library, which has had financial troubles practically since its 1901 opening.

Judge Walter Little of Allegheny County Orphans Court is to consider the matter Tuesday.

The trustees have asked the court to amend the original trust that Carnegie signed. The number of ex-officio trustees would be cut to three, and the 10 life trustees would become nine termed trustees, serving three-year terms.

"Every other organization in the world has term trustees," said Betsy Martin, president of the library board and a life trustee.

The revamped board would make the library - badly in need of renovations - more attractive to potential donors, the officials say. Fewer ex-officio trustees also would make it easier to form a quorum at regular meetings.

Meeting attendance among borough officials has been sparse, said Shawn Wright, attorney for the board. Nine members must be present to conduct business, and a current vacancy has made this even more difficult.

An official of the Chartiers Valley Partnership said some foundations the partnership has asked for money have suggested the move from life trustees to term trustees.

"Governance is an issue that foundations look at," said Allen Turske, executive director of the organization overseeing fund-raising for a proposed $5 million library renovation.

The partnership, formed two years ago, so far has raised $5,000 for the capital campaign - a grant from the Aloe Foundation for an engineering study.

Turske also said the turnover of life trustees is about one each year, and potential board members could find serving three years a little less daunting than a lifetime term.

Still, one of the life trustees opposes the change.

Glenn Walsh, a board member since 1995, has offered his resignation, effective when life trustees become termed trustees.

"It's a breach of the library's agreement they made with Andrew Carnegie 101 years ago," he said.

Ken Bowman, a member of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves Civil War re-enactors group, has applied for the current opening on the board. But he said termed trustees would allow for fresh perspectives.

"It would allow for new blood to come in once in a while," he said.

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