PITTSTON – Before joining other officials in digging into the earth with shovels behind the Pittston Memorial Library on Thursday, 94-year-old John P. Cosgrove recalled that the land was once the Erie Freight Yard when he was a boy living on South Main Street.
The product of this area – anthracite coal – was transported to the successful markets that made Pittston an industrial city, a remarkable city in the area, Cosgrove told the crowd of nearly 100 gathered for the groundbreaking of the library's John P. Cosgrove Annex.
In breaking this ground today, we're connecting symbolically with the product that made this community so successful – the vacant veins now of the anthracite coal. And the education of this fountain of knowledge is tied directly to the product of this community, Cosgrove said.
The new addition will be built onto the rear of the current library. It will include a community/conference center available for community use; a larger children's section with four computer stations and a play area; arts and crafts room; space for an intergenerational grandparents program; teen space with age-appropriate materials; kitchenette; and other amenities, said library director Anne Hogya.
Barbara Quinn, president of the library board, said the seeds of the project were planted when Pittston native Mike Clark suggested to Cosgrove that he donate his private collection of books and memorabilia, which he accumulated through seven decades of working in and around the media in Washington, D.C., to the Pittston Library.
She said board member Ed Ackerman and his brother Bill had to make two trips to bring the collection back from Washington. We had no idea how voluminous this collection was. When we saw (it), we realized we didn't have enough space in our existing library to house this or display it, so we thought then about building an addition.
Honorary chairman of the capital campaign Tom Tigue had noted that Cosgrove had met every U.S. president beginning with Herbert Hoover during his career as a journalist and as former president of the National Press Club, and was so kind to give us his lifetime treasures.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, called it an impressive and ambitious project … in very difficult times. … To accomplish great things, you not only must act, you must dream. Thankfully, the board of directors, Barbara Quinn, Tom Tigue and Pat Solano, they dreamed their library could be better.
Mayor Mike Lombardo said the library is proof that if you build something like this in a community like this, people will use it. … I think it's such a great testimonial to what's important in the community.
Tom Williams, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said he was happy the department could provide a $49,000 grant to the library a year ago and that he could return for the groundbreaking. He said the Obama administration has been working closely with the library board on the expansion and with city officials on downtown revitalization in order to do projects like this. And I can guarantee you this will not be the last one over the next four years, that we will be back.
The USDA provided a $768,000 low-interest loan to get the project started now as the capital campaign continues.