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Chester County Press

Municipalities need to adequately support libraries

10/16/2013 02:06PM ● By Acl

If you're one of the 12,000 people who have a library card at the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, then maybe you know what a resource it is for the community.

In 2013, the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library and the other 17 libraries in the Chester County system are much more than a place to check out a book or read a magazine.

The library in Kennett Square offers adult literacy programs and has computers that anyone can use. Job-seekers, many of whom don't have a computer at home, use them during their search for work. Students who might not have access to the Internet at home can use a computer at the library to do their work. Youngsters can enjoy one of the numerous programs that incorporate books, songs, games, and crafts. Children can enhance their love of reading at the library. Teens can take part in the various programs aimed at that age group, such as the upcoming murder mystery Halloween party. Adults can listen to a talk by a local author about the Civil War. Anyone can download the latest copy of a bestseller onto their iPads or Kindles.

If you think that libraries have lost their place in the modern world, think again. The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library saw the number of visitors increase by more than 25 percent since 2008. Last year alone, there were 125,781 visitors who borrowed 180,513 items. More than 10,000 children took part in children's programs in 2012.

Each year, library directors make the rounds to the municipalities that help fund them to talk about the various services and offerings now available. It's interesting to hear about all the activities that take place in a modern library, and it's impressive that libraries are able to provide so much to the community with so little funding. But it's also a little troubling that libraries remain so under-funded.

Elected officials in some municipalities recognize the importance of the local library and authorize funding that is in line with the value that libraries provide to communities. Kennett Township, for instance, contributes $21.54 per capita. East Marlborough Township contributes $17.37 per capita. And the citizens in these townships receive value for those contributions. Thirty-two percent of all the library cardholders at Bayard Taylor Memorial Library live in Kennett Township. Eighteen percent of the residents in East Marlborough Township are library cardholders. Any man or woman or boy or girl, who regularly visits the library will tell you that $17.37 or $21.54 per capita is money well-spent.

But other municipalities fall well short of even providing “fair share” funding to the libraries. In the Kennett Square region, wealthy West Marlborough Township only provides $1.84 in funding per capita. It's true that only one percent of the Bayard Taylor Library's cardholders are from West Marlborough. But one in five West Marlborough residents are cardholders. Is $1.84 per person really an accurate reflection of the value of the library? Then you have New Garden Township, which only contributes 87 cents per capita. Eighteen percent of all the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library's cardholders reside in New Garden. Nearly one in five New Garden residents have a library card. Yet, the township's leaders only allocate 87 cents per capita.

Bayard Taylor Memorial Library officials are seeking an increase in funding from New Garden for 2014—they are asking for $43,000 instead of the $10,500 that the township gave last year. Even if New Garden supervisors approve of the increase, they won't be contributing at a rate anywhere near the levels of Kennett Township and East Marlborough. New Garden will, instead, be contributing near the middle of the pack, which would be terrific considering where it stands now.

When libraries don't receive adequate local support they are penalized twice because the local contribution factors in to how much they receive in the state.

We encourage New Garden Township and all the local municipalities to adequately support libraries. Furthermore, if you aren't already taking advantage of these valuable community resources, we encourage everyone to visit the local library to see everything that they have to offer.