Donora Library Addition Project

The Donora Public Library Addition Project
(as of 01/07/19)


Expanding Our Purpose –

Embracing Our Future


Our Future Home


In 2016, the Donora Historical Society was approached by the Donora Public Library with an ambitious plan to build an addition to their current building to house the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum, and the research collections of both organizations.  The Historical Society and Library have been collaborating over the past years on various projects and we think we could be more effective under the same roof by sharing similar resources and populations.  Creating this shared environment will benefit each organization in multiple ways and will help each organization to more efficiently serve the needs of its patrons

A big part of that plan includes a two story addition to the north side of the existing two story Library building measuring 80’ long and 40’ wide, incorporating as much “Green” technology in the building’s construction as possible without impacting the project budget.  This will reduce our “carbon footprint” and should keep some of our utility expenses to a minimum. 

Below is the front Meldon Avenue view of the current Library building on the right with the proposed two story addition to the left.  NOTE:  The addition design is subject to change.

The added space will provide the room needed to safely and securely house the archival data and primary resources of both the Library and the Historical Society.  The increased capacity will also allow for a more academically effective and educationally interactive display of the Historical Society’s vast collection of artifacts and exhibits, as well as provide a more conducive environment for researchers and groups.  The Library, for  its part, maintains an impressive collection of literary resources, including an extensive microfilm collection and a modern, computerized microfilm reader. It also conducts numerous and varied educational programs. 


Architect Kulak Design Associates, LLC from Monongahela has already been retained. 

Below is the rear vew from the parking lot of the current Library building on the left with the two story addition to the right.  NOTE:  The addition design is subject to change.

Below is the overhead property view of the current Library building in white on the right with the addition in pink to the left.  NOTE:  The addition design is subject to change.

Acquiring additional property footage to the left of the Library's current property line is being considered.  This potential acquisition would alter the design of the addition.


Embracing Change


Libraries are on the cusp of a great transformation in retaining their relevancy within their community.  Changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools, and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the Donora Public Library provides.  The Library must evolve in ways that track both the pace of this change and the diversity of its patrons, ensuring all members of the Donora and surrounding communities have equal access to the world of ideas.


The Library's formal Strategic Plan will guide them during a period of internal transition, as well as external societal and technological shifts, and is intended to provide vision and direction, staying true to core Library values, as the Donora Public Library adapts thoughtfully and boldly to emerging challenges and opportunities for the benefit of its users.



Past Progress


Over the past five years, the Library completed a series of upgrades to their current building that was built in 1996, that includes:

  • The entire roof structure by reinforcing the roof trusses, as well as replacing the asphalt shingled roof with a metal roof with a longer life.
  • The Library stacks room, where the original carpeting was replaced, window treatments and more inviting reading furniture were added. 

  • The downstairs Community Room, where carpeting was added to define a presentation area; a kitchen was added to better facilitate social functions; and the bathrooms were enhanced.

  • Other cost saving measures were taken by adding security cameras, upgrading to LED lighting, and new HVAC.

  • The outside sidewalks and ramps were replaced for better accessibility for those with physical limitations. 


New partnerships


In 2015, the Donora Public Library partnered with the Donora Historical Society after the Historical Society was selected to host the traveling Civil War Exhibit from the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.  The exhibit was displayed in the Library’s downstairs Community Room for six weeks.  Aside from the museum-quality displays that also featured local artifacts from the Mid-Mon Valley, the exhibit was supplemented with various presentations, living history demonstrations, and cultural events that occurred during the week for school groups, and in the evenings and weekends for the general public.  The Library experienced a significant increase in visitor traffic that exposed those people to Donora in general and the Library in particular.  The spark was ignited and the flame was fanned into a firestorm of ideas of what could be.  So as a result of the partnering experience with the Donora Historical Society, in 2016 the Library undertook the creation of their Strategic Plan to chart their journey into the 21st century – thus Expanding Our Purpose – Embracing Our Future.


The Donora Historical Society has a long and established reputation of hosting visitors for research or out of shear curiosity from around the world to their Smog Museum due to Donora’s rich history, mainly focusing on the 1948 Smog incident.  The Historical Society is not only a Heinz History Center Affiliate, but also has established relationships with universities, researchers, book authors, documentary film crews, environmental organizations and the like.

In the past, the two organizations shared the same building and served the community from the same location. The spirit of community cooperation seen in this joint project is typical of the long-standing partnership between the Library and the Historical Society.  Board members of both organizations believe that re-establishing that tradition will bring increased patron traffic to a central facility and enable both organizations to provide added, improved and more cost effective services to these patrons.

Building Expansion


In a “Rust Belt” community of Donora, where progress sometimes moves at a glacial pace after the loss of our steel industry decades ago, the Library agreed to be a leader in the re-invention of our community.  Their focus now shifts from building upgrades to building expansion, which will in turn increase their services.  


The Strategic Plan will guide the Library’s efforts and is intended to set an ambitious course for the future of the Library and the enrichments of Donora residents, as well as the enrichment of those visitors from around the world who have yet to visit us.

This Library Addition Project has been endorsed by local elected officials.  Numerous educators on the elementary, middle school, high school and college levels, as well as a number of professional organizations have enthusiastically ratified the proposal by writing letters of support. 



Our Vision for Donora


A town that responds to change and takes responsibility for its future, and where imagination and opportunity thrive.



Donora Public Library’s Mission


The mission of the Donora Public Library is to provide a balanced collection of print and electronic resources and services to patrons of all ages for their educational, cultural, and recreational needs.  This goal will be attained by ensuring patrons that they will be able to rely on the quality and integrity of the library’s information, collections, services, and staff.  These objectives will foster the library’s commitment to supporting a lifelong enjoyment and appreciation of reading, literacy, and learning.



Guiding Principles

  • Promote literacy and a love of reading

  • Support intellectual freedom

  • Adapt and innovate

  • Form strong partnerships

  • Respect and embrace the entire community

  • Support children and youth

  • Foster a healthy democracy

  • Protect confidentiality of patron records

The Donora Historical Society's Perspective

The Historical Society, with all its artifacts, literally allows people to touch history.  This unique form of communication with previous generations not only allows visitors to connect with, and better understand changing value systems, it can help individuals clarify their own priorities as well.  The Smog Museum commemorates the lives of people who died through no fault of their own.  It provides a warning of the possible consequences of ignoring potential environmental hazards.  It recreates the life styles of the times.  It shows the connection between a problem and the efforts to solve it, i.e., "Clean Air Started Here."  Besides all that, museums are fun, entertaining and wholesome ways to spend time.



Goal 1


Fuel Donora's Passion for Reading, Personal Growth and Learning

  • Build community around books

  • Strengthen the Library's contribution to the education of Donora's youth

  • Be Donora's source for high-quality free instruction and programs to support personal growth

  • Integrate learning into daily life

To thrive today and tomorrow, the Library must help people to access information in new ways.  The challenge in this age of information is to be able to efficiently identify what is needed, understand how information is organized, identify the most appropriate sources, evaluate those sources critically, and provide access to the information in formats that are easy to share.  The Library is uniquely positioned to do this by drawing on its collection, technology, and skilled librarians to provide multi-layered learning and experiences for Donora residents.  With the addition of the Donora Historical Society, the Library will have a broader and deeper collection to offer.



Goal 2


Expand Donora's Access to Information, Ideas and Stories

  • Provide better access to computer equipment for children and adults

  • Provide access to digital material

  • Develop relevant and inspiring collections that meet Donora's evolving needs and expectations

  • Drive new models for improving information access and delivery

Imagine a library and the picture that comes to mind is one of books on shelves.  Yet any active library user knows that image is incomplete.  The Donora Public Library collects books, periodicals, movies and music, and provides many of these materials in print and digital formats.  The very definition of “book” is becoming fluid, encompassing formats that may reshape the concepts of author and reader over time.  The Library must meet the needs of the children who will learn and then invest new forms of information delivery, and expect ubiquitous and immediate access to information, while still meeting the needs of parents and grandparents.  During this time of transition the Library must maintain an excellent physical collection while they embrace the shift to digital formats.  The Library must also deliver a collection that serves patrons of different economic and educational backgrounds. 



Goal 3


Foster an Organizational Culture of Innovation

  • Build Library staff and institutional capacity to innovate

  • Use rigorous analysis to provide a positive user experience

  • Manage change with flexibility


The Library’s ability to predict what the future will look like is regularly proven inadequate.  Perhaps the most valuable outcome of the strategic planning process is that it has required the Library to contemplate the future of the book and the future of libraries, and forced the Library to acknowledge the limits of its ability to predict what those futures look like.


What will matter in the end is not that they “get it right” – that they accurately predict the future – but that they prepare themselves for success in an uncertain future by institutionalizing the ability to continually evolve as their world and the world of their patrons changes.  This is not a one-time endeavor, but a commitment to continue to listen, question challenge, and adapt.

Goal 4


Empower Donora's Distinctive and Vibrant Community

  • Establish the Library as a civic focal point and resource hub for Donora

  • Adapt spaces and services to support Donora's vibrant community

  • Offer programming and exhibits that expose Donora residents to Art and Culture

Libraries are the rare locale where people from all walks of life regularly share a space and an experience.  The Library provides a safe place that welcomes all comers and encourages exploration.  They must develop the Library as a creative anchor for community life.

One of the key elements of the Arts is literature.  As any library, the Donora Public Library's fundamental purpose is literature, so at its very core the basis of the Library is promoting the Arts.


Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.

The Arts represent an outlet of expression that is usually influenced by culture which in turn helps to change culture.  Major constituents of the Arts include literature - including poetry, novels and short stories; performing arts - among them music, dance, and theatre; media arts like photography and cinematography; and visual arts - including drawing, painting, ceramics, and sculpting.  With art exhibits integrated into the Library stacks, patrons are exposed subliminally to art without much effort.  The hope is they will take notice and develop and appreciation for something they would not normally seek out.

One doesn't think of a historical society being involved in the Arts per se, but through the Donora Historical Society's affiliation with the Heinz History Center and California University of Pennsylvania's Digital Storytelling classes, we have worked with professors and students on digital stories.  With that said, our most recent Environmental Conference was based on Digital Storytelling whose foundation was based on a poem by German Poet Laureate Gunter Kunert titled, "Song of a Small Town" about the 1948 Smog.

One of the more extensive collections in the Historical Society archives is the Bruce Dreisbach photograph collection, some of which is already displayed at the Smog Museum, as well as the Library.  The Historical Society has displayed a portion of this collection at times at venues outside of the Smog Museum.  The most recent display occurred at the California University of Pennsylvania as part of the "Voices of the Mon Valley" exhibition.

If Donora residents aren't inclined to visit museums, we can bring museums to them.  This was never more evident as when we hosted the Heinz History Center's traveling Civil War Exhibit in 2015 and brought art and culture to Donora.  The six week exhibit started with an opening reception with a live musical group, and consisted of presentations and living history demonstrations.  The Donora Historical Society was awarded the Heinz History Center's traveling WWII Exhibit in 2020 - "We Can Do It!  WWII!."  The exhibit will be once again displayed in the Library's downstairs Community Room and plans are already underway that include historical, arts and cultural events.


Goal 5


Build Partnerships to Make a Difference in People's Lives

  • Deploy a systematic approach to partnering that best leverages Library and partner resources

  • Create alliances with government agencies and community groups to benefit Donora residents

If we are to accomplish the ambitious goals that are outlined in this Strategic Plan, the Donora Public Library must join forces with partners to create new value for the public through teamwork.  Even in the best economic times, there is tremendous untapped opportunity to leverage Library materials, services, building space and staff knowledge by working with public and private organizations that have complementary missions but bring different set of skills, knowledge and relationships to the table.  In a time of constrained resources, the benefit of partnerships becomes even greater.


NOTE:  A formal STRATEGIC PLAN document with detailed goals can be furnished upon request.