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Chester County Press

A Library of Inclusion

07/23/2014 05:41PM ● By Lev

This past May, the board of directors of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library voted unanimously Tuesday night construct a new library in Kennett Township on a 5.3-acre site on Way’s Lane, near Waywood Beverage, just outside the borough. Fourteen years ago, the library purchased the land with the idea that it would serve as the new site for the library. Public backlash against the site killed the idea, but in the two months since the decision was finally reached, the backlash has picked up again. As a result, the library's board has been the target of criticism by those who feel that the library has, essentially, abandoned downtown Kennett Square in favor of setting up camp somewhere deep in the woodsy outback of Chester County, in a spot that will be completely inaccessible for Kennett Square residents. In reality, the new location is about one mile from its current site.

Lately, library director Donna Murray and her staff have been speaking to the municipalities the library serves, in order to explain why the Ways Lane site was selected. On July 21, Murray and Karen Ammon spoke to the New Garden Board of Supervisors and about 50 residents gathered for the meeting. There, they said that the site was selected on the basis of its meeting nine specific criteria, based in part of availability to build, the cost to build, the capacity for increased parking, and the flexibility that the site has for building.

It is a tour of explanations, and it needn't have been undertaken. There is no need for explanations, or apologies, or cow-towing to a public with a myopic capacity . The new Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, which is expected to have its first shovel in the ground soon after a three-year capital campaign, will become both an extraordinary opportunity, finally realized, and made for everyone.

Time was when the movers and shakers of Kennett Square were reaching for anything in search of the town's definition, and perhaps the library had helped define the town at one time. But look now; a walk from the Kennett Area YMCA to The Market at Liberty Place will reveal a town redefined as one of vibrancy, of economic and social rebirth, with the stimulation of added growth soon to be seen in residential and commercial construction now underway on Cypress Street and beyond. By choosing to build at this location – one that is anticipated to be double in size to the current, 11,000-square-foot building – the library will serve as a gateway to Kennett Square, from the other side of town.

Since its founding in 1896, the mission of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library has been to serve as a regional library, but the common perception was for years that it belonged to the residents of Kennett Square Borough only.

In truth, however, the library serves not only the Borough, but the townships of East Marlborough, Kennett, New Garden, Newlin, Pennsbury, Pocopson and West Marlborough – a wide swath of the population of southern Chester County, many of whom want access to what a new, modern library can give them: expanded access to information and technology, multi-media, as well as e-books and meeting spaces, all in an effort to make the new Bayard Taylor Memorial Library not an outdated relic of the past but an essential tool for the entire community...and one still anchored to the town where it all began.