By Steven Hoffman
If a new Bayard Taylor Memorial Library is built on a site on Waywood Road in Kennett Township, more than a few people will be sad to see the library leave Kennett Square Borough, which is where it got its start in 1896. The library has been a fixture on State Street since 1962. Count Leon Spencer, the borough council president, among those who would like to see the library remain in the borough.
“It’s a loss for the borough. I also think it’s a loss for the library,” Spencer said in an interview on Monday.
Spencer was referring to the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library board's recent vote to build a new library on a five-acre Waywood Road property that it has owned since 1998. Initially, the plans were to construct a new state-of-the-art building on the site, but economic factors and some opposition to moving the library out of Kennett Square Borough halted those plans more than a decade ago.
For a time, the library seemed destined to remain in the borough and the Waywood Road site was going to be sold. There were extensive discussions about a project that would include Kennett Square Borough, the Kennett YMCA, and Anson B. Nixon Park. But when those plans failed to develop, library officials conducted a thorough analysis of all the options, looking at as many as 20 different sites in the Kennett Square area. No fewer than five of the options extensively studied were in the borough, including the present library location, the post office building next to the library, the American Legion building, the former Newberry's location, the Alvin's/Genesis building, and the Weinstein site.
Parking has always been an important consideration for the library, especially convenient parking. One of the major attractions of the Waywood Road site is that the parking would be comparatively affordable, and the parking would be sufficient to meet current and future needs.
Library officials have been outlining the methodical process that was used to compare potential sites during three community conversations that were scheduled following the recent announcement.
Cautious optimism is a term that gets bandied about a lot. Spencer might be considered cautiously pessimistic about the chances of keeping the library in the borough at this point. Though he's not pessimistic by nature, the recent decision by the library board makes it much less likely that the future home of the library will be in Kennett Square Borough.
The library board's decision comes after there were discussions just a few months ago about the District Court building site in the borough. The District Court's move from Broad Street to West Cypress, would leave the District Court building open for expansion. The parking situation could be addressed by expanding the parking garage. Spencer noted that the parking garage was designed to allow for a cost-effective expansion. Spencer said that borough officials had discussions with three representatives from the library and at the end of those discussions, everyone seemed to be positive about the talks.
Then the library board announced that the best location to move forward with plans for a modern library is the Waywood Road site.
Spencer said that having the library in town has been good for Kennett Square. In its present location on State Street, it is accessible for everyone from elementary school students to high school students to senior citizens in the Friends Home to residents of some of the town's older neighborhoods.
“I think the library has served the population quite well,” Spencer said.
He added that he had hoped the library would remain in the borough.
“I’m disappointed because any time you lose something that’s so viable it’s a loss. I’m sorry to see that happen.”