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Chester County Press

Memo to Kennett Library: No sweat. Get Swett.

01/24/2017 01:32PM ● By Richard Gaw
About a year ago, nearly to the day, Thomas C. Swett, a resident of East Marlborough Township, was  elected as the president of the board of directors for the then-named Kennett Public Library. To many who had followed the controversial exploits of the board in recent years, the role that Swett was taking on seemed thankless, at best, one nearly guaranteed to land him knee deep in the continuing big muddy of in-fighting, finger-pointing and accusations that not only defined the board, but also threatened to take a treasured Chester County heirloom down with it.
When the dust cleared – after a raft of former directors tossed in their resignations – Swett was left to pick up the Humpty Dumpty mess and, with the help of vice president Jeff Yetter, secretary-treasurer Bill McLachlan and a new board by his side, he slowly put all of the pieces back together again.
Under Swett's guidance, the board set about bringing credibility back to an institution that many throughout the eight municipalities the library serves believed had been destroyed.
Slowly, they re-opened the books of the library's history, its present and its future and, meeting by meeting, page by page, restored credibility. 
In March, Swett and the board delicately balanced the need to remember the history of the library while at the same time, moving it into the new century. They hired consultant Carl Francis to help the board resolve the controversy over an earlier name change for the library. After several public presentations, a new name was chosen: the Kennett Library at the Bayard Taylor Commons. 
In April, the library received a substantial Vision Partnership grant from Chester County to enable the community to collaborate on a new vision for a new library. In May, the library's New Building Committee began conversations with Kennett Borough Council to discuss an idea that would establish a new, modern library in the borough, that wold potentially house not just a 30,000 square-foot library but the borough's offices, municipal courts and police station. 
A new graphic identity and signage for the library is seen everywhere. There is a revamped website. There is an annual report for the first time in the library's 120 years. Substantial planning grants are being applied for. The opinions of the thousands of individuals, families and institutions, once neglected, are now being woven into the framework of long-term plans.
Now, Swett and the library board face their largest challenge to date: A capital campaign to raise an estimated $7 million toward the construction of a new library.
We can't think of a better person to serve as chairman of this campaign than Thomas C. Swett.
When it comes to being able to connect community with funding and vision, a quick look at  Swett's  credentials places him at the top of the fundraising pedestal. Now in his second stint on the library board, Swett has also served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including Historic Kennett Square, the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, and the Chester County Hospital System, and has considerable experience leading fundraising campaigns.
If there is any local institution who knows the benefits of having the right person in the job of fundraising chairman, it is the Kennett Area YMCA. The late Thomas Musser, one of the most admired  leaders in the recent history of Southern Chester County, spearheaded two campaigns for the YMCA – the first in 1996-97, that raised $5.2 million; and the second in 2011-12, that raised $3 million for the expansion of the facility. Both campaigns were aggressive in their pursuit of funding, but at their core were led by a tenacity of kindness that defined who Tom Musser was.
Thomas C. Swett is cut from the very same cloth that Musser was, and there is no better kind of fabric on which to build dreams. We urge the board of the Kennett Library, as well as members of the community, to convince Swett to become chairman of the library's upcoming capital campaign.