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Chester County Press

Kennett Library seeking additional municipal support for new facility

10/01/2019 02:21PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

On the evening of Sept. 16, Jeff Yetter, the vice president of the Board of Trustees for the Kennett Library, stood before the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors and presented them with two options on how the township could raise about 4.8 percent of the estimated $15 million needed to build the new Kennett Library.

The options for New Garden – none of which are mandatory – were:

1.      Institute a .3 mill real estate tax in the township for a period of three years, which would be added to the capital costs needed to fund the building of the library, at a rate of $58.98 a year per household; or

2.      Make an annual contribution of $241,478 for the next three years to the library’s capital campaign which, at the end of those three years, would amount to $724,433.

New Garden Township is just one of the eight municipalities whose annual contributions help fund the operating expenses for the Kennett Library, and the Sept. 16 presentation served as merely the latest stop-off point on the part of the library’s Board of Trustees to encourage municipalities to consider the two options. Similar presentations have been made – or are about to be made -- to East Marlborough, Kennett, Newlin, Pocopson, Pennsbury and West Marlborough townships, as well as to the Kennett Square Borough.

It’s a fair share project that if enacted by all municipalities would fund 20 percent – or $3 million – of the library’s construction costs, and redefine the role of municipalities as not just contributors to the Kennett Library, but as stakeholders in its future, and in the nearly 16,000 households (45,000 people) in southern Chester County who use the library on a regular basis.

“It is phenomenal how much municipal support we receive, so to ask for a capital contribution from them as well is just a great signal from these municipalities that they truly support the library,” said Trustee Collis Townsend, who agreed in August to lead the library’s capital campaign. “The reality is that the new library is an investment in southern Chester County that all eight municipalities are going to benefit from.”

While the $3 million in contributions the library is seeking from its partnering municipalities to help fund the new library is a sizable hunk of cash, it’s only one of five separate funding sources that will be utilized over the coming year. The library is anticipating $2.5 million in grants from the state and the county; about $1.25 million from the sale of its current site on State Street; and it plans to tap the library’s reserves in the amount of $1 million.

The largest chunk of the fundraising pie, however, will be in the form of contributions from the private sector, which are earmarked at a goal of between $8 and $10 million. While the private campaign is soon to officially get underway and the public campaign begins next year, sizable private donations have already started to flow in. The trustees recently received checks for $1 million and $385,000 from long-time supporters of the library.

“While we need that municipal support, I also believe in the millionaire next door,” Townsend said. “I am already aware of one sizable gift that will come into the library eventually from somebody I never would have dreamed would make that size of a gift to the library.”

About $1 million of that $15 million has already been paid for, seen in the purchase of the Weinstein lot, payment for the architectural schematic design for the new library, and other pre-construction expenditures.

One of the key drawbacks toward funding the new library is that there is no funding mechanism to raise capital for libraries in Pennsylvania -- either on the state, county and local level – which puts an increased burden on state libraries to turn over as many boulders as they can find.

“The reason why this initiative to seek municipal support is necessary is that there is no capital funding for libraries in a very real sense from the state, from the county and the municipalities – unless you’re a captive library that only serves a particular township,” Yetter said. “The public thinks that libraries in Pennsylvania are built by the state, because if you look at Delaware, the counties and the state account for 90 percent of the funding of new libraries. We’re in a different situation.”

Ultimately, what’s at stake is finding the money that will enable the Kennett Library to begin an essential – some say a crucial – chapter in its life, which began in 1895 and is now housed in a vastly outdated, 11,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1961. In consultation with the library’s board, its management and several community members, Virginia-based Lukemire Architects hammered out a schematic design that once completed, will be built at the corner of East State Street and South Willow Lane. The new, 29,257-square-foot facility will include two 30-seat classrooms; a multipurpose room; tutor, group and quiet rooms; a 110-seat auditorium with a stage; 37 parking spaces; and offer state-of-the art technology tools, access to information and bigger footprint for the more than 1,000 programs the library offers every year.

The big-picture goal of the new library, Townsend said, will be to approach the building as if it is a tabula rasa, and begin to fill it in a way that fulfills the needs of the entire community – not just the big donors.

“One of the challenges is when you go to ask someone for money, they want to know what’s in it for them,” he said. “It’s not just all philanthropic. Some of it is to their own needs, so we have to make sure that the library’s programs are at the full spectrum of the communities that we serve.

“It’s imagining the possibilities of what we can do with proper funding, proper spacing and a proper library.”

Whether or not the non-mandatory fundraising initiative will enlist the three-year contributions of the eight municipalities next year – and reach that $3 million goal -- will be dependent on where it falls in order of importance with the many other expenditures that will go into the making of the 2020 budget. The success of the idea, Yetter said, will rest in a municipality’s long-term commitment for the Kennett Library, and where they see their place in it.

“The Kennett Library is incredibly lucky to have the municipal support that it receives on a yearly basis, and in no way does this initiative denigrate the wonderful contributions each of these municipalities make for us on a daily basis,” he said. “The $85,000 that New Garden contributes to the library every year [for operational expenses] is great, but that $241,478 they could give us for three years towards a $15 million library is a 50-year investment.”

“This is one generation’s gift to the next generations,” Townsend said. “This is the biggest project of its kind in southern Chester County in a long time, and there is a pent-up demand and belief from those who want to see a new library happen, and our job is to get the word out to everyone so that it does happen,” Townsend said.

“I've been involved in the building of a new library in Kennett Square for the past 15 years, and it's time. We have the right team together and we're adding even more good people constantly, and we're going to get this done. People have continually asked us, 'Is it really going to happen?' The answer is ‘Yes. We have the right people to make it happen.’”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]


Funding Sources for the New Kennett Library

Source                                    Estimated Contribution

State/county grants                 $2.5 million

Private contributions               $8 - $10 million

Library reserves                       $1 million

Sale of current site                  $1.25 million

Municipal support                   $3 million       

Goal                                        $15 million +



Third Annual Kennett Library Benefit

“The Glory of the Sea”

Oct. 17, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Stone Barn

100 Stone Barn Drive, Kennett Square

The event feature silent and live auctions, food, wine and beer provided by Victory Brewing Company and Galer Estate Winery, and special guest speaker Victoria Wyeth. Proceeds will support the operating expenses of the library. The event will have a nautical theme, so guests can chose to attend in business attire or in pirate regalia. For more information and to obtain tickets, visit