Kennett Library officials offer update about new library project
By Steven Hoffman
If everything goes according to the Kennett Library Board's timeline, a groundbreaking on a new, modern library will take place at some point in 2021 and the grand opening of the building will follow in 2022.
First, the library will undertake a capital campaign to raise most of the funding for the $15 million project.
Jeff Yetter, the vice president of the Kennett Library’s Board of Trustees, shared details about plans for the new library, as well as information about the library's current operations, during a presentation at the Jan. 22 meeting of Kennett Square Borough Council.
At the meeting, borough council approved some modifications to the agreement between the borough and the Kennett Library.
The new library, which will be built on the Weinstein lot at the intersection of State Street and South Willow Street in Kennett Square, is envisioned as a community center where people in the community can gather together in a creative environment.
Yetter explained that the current plans are for a 25,000 square-foot building that will have shelving space for approximately 55,000 volumes. The library will include two classrooms and two multi-purpose rooms to house the Adult Literacy Program classes and offer study spaces for students and tutors who work one-on-one. Yetter said that there will be a maker space with state-of-the-art technological resources to support and enhance the curriculum of the local schools. There will be several study areas for library patrons.
A featured part of the new building will be a 110-seat auditorium that will make Kennett Square even more of a destination in the region. This auditorium will have space suitable for business meetings, movie screenings, entertainment, and more.
Additionally, Yetter explained, the plans for the new library currently include 37 surface parking spaces that are dedicated spaces for library patrons and employees. The library purchased two parcels—at 120 South Willow and 124 South Willow—to make room for convenient parking after officials determined that it would simply be too expensive to include underground parking as part of the project. Yetter pointed out that the current library has exactly zero dedicated parking spaces, and a lack of convenient parking has been an issue for the library for many years.
Overall, Yetter said, the amenities in the new library is expected to double the number of people who utilize the library's resources each year.
He explained that a capital campaign to fund the project will start later this year and continue into next year. The library already has about $3 million in reserve that can be used for the project. The library is already in the process of seeking some grant funding from the state, too. There are also plans to seek support from the eight municipalities that are included in the library's coverage area.
“We're all going to have to work together to do this, but we can get this done,” Yetter said.
Yetter also talked about the current operations of the library, and the vital role that it plays in the community.
Last year, 113,000 people entered the library to utilize resources or to take part in one of the many programs that the library offers—many of them free. Approximately 175,000 books, DVDs, and online items were checked out by library users. There were also more than 1,000 free programs that were produced for children, teens, young adults, and adults.
The library's role as a community center for information and technology is only expected to grow when the new building opens.
Following the presentation, borough council approved an amended agreement between the borough and the library.
Borough manager Joseph Scalise explained that the original agreement between the two parties stipulated that once the library constructed a new building on the Weinstein lot, the facility had to remain a library for 25 years. Banks were uncomfortable with that stipulation, so that was being removed from the agreement, Scalise said.
Council member Wayne Braffman added that the language in the original agreement could have possibly allowed the library to sell the Weinstein lot. In 2017, the borough sold the Weinstein lot to the library at significantly less than the appraised value of $550,000 because it wanted to support the library and the construction of a new building. For obvious reasons, the borough would not want the library to then sell the Weinstein lot to someone else. The amended agreement's language clarifies the issue. Borough council unanimously approved the amended agreement.