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Chester County Press

Groundbreaking for Kennett Library & Resource Center draws stakeholders, momentum

08/17/2021 03:22PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

As the general public gathered with local elected and appointed officials both past and present at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Kennett Library & Resource Center on Aug. 12, a rich brown mound of dirt stood about two feet high near the corner of State and Willow streets.

The curve of the mound was punctured by ceremonial shovels that were about to be used by dignitaries to officially introduce the borough to its future – a $20 million masterpiece of architecture and imagination that will bring southern Chester County a new library.

In a broader respect, however, the dirt also represented the dreams of those who persisted for two decades with an undying belief that this day would arrive.

“This board has been working for 20 years for this momentous day, and I was just informed by our attorney that it is has actually been 30 years that he has been working to get this done,” said Library Board President Jeff Yetter in his opening remarks before nearly 200 guests who gathered beneath a large white tarpaulin for the ceremony.

The groundbreaking ceremony was the official launch to the construction of what will become the Kennett Library & Resource Center, a 31,485 square-foot, two-floor facility that will serve more than 45,000 residents in neighboring municipalities. It will feature a 110-seat auditorium; several group study, meeting rooms and classrooms; and a children's area, maker's space and four tutor rooms – all of which will be outfitted with state-of-the-art computer connectivity. In addition, the new library will also feature an outdoor terrace and on-site parking.

It will replace the current, 60-year-old,11,000-square-foot library that is located just west of the site of the new library.

Throughout his address, Yetter praised the 20-member board, whom he called “excited, energized and enthusiastic,” and who have also contributed $792,000 toward the library's capital campaign. Yetter also gave recognition to Chairman Emeritus Thomas C. Swett, Dansko founders Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, and Longwood Gardens President and CEO Paul Redman, who serve as honorary campaign co-chairs.

“Kennett is a special place,” Yetter concluded. “It is the board's hope that we will enhance everyone's quality of life, expand our dreams, increase our knowledge and help us all to become better members of an ever-changing society.”

In his remarks, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said that he and the members of Borough Council “are thrilled that the construction of the new library was was able to remain in the borough and are excited to see this come to fruition.”

Fetick also recognized U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, State Reps. Christine Sappey and Craig Williams, State Sen. John Kane and County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Michele Kichline and Josh Maxwell.

'It's going to make a huge impact on the

greater Kennett area and southern Chester County'

“I have had folks stop me on the street and say, 'Matt, do we really need that big library? Can't folks get everything they need on the internet?'” Fetick said. “When you look at the resource portion of what this library is, you will begin to understand why this is going to be a hub and a critical part of our community service. While we have the privilege of being the home for the Library & Resource Center right here in the borough, it's going to make a huge impact on the greater Kennett area and southern Chester County, overall.

“More importantly, it will support the most vulnerable in our community – folks that need access to computers and the internet, folks that need the adult literacy program, and the programs go on and on. When we look at healthy communities and communities that thrive, there is no doubt in my mind that when we put our energy and efforts behind the Library & Resource Center, that we will make a huge impact on our community for the longevity.”

Saying that the importance of a community library cannot be overstated, Rep. Houlahan said that new library will be able to provide information resources, access to technology and training to the entire community.

“The ability to read is not just a fundamental skill, but it is an important opportunity to grow with your community, it is is important for your community's ability to grow with the commonwealth and it is important for the commonwealth's ability grow with the country,” she said.

'This is about our children's grandchildren'

Calling the ceremony “a huge day in the history of Kennett Square and in the history of all of us who have been working on this project for 20 to 30 years,” the Library's capital campaign chair Collis Townsend expressed confidence that the capital campaign – which has already raised $12.3 million through public and private donations – will be able to achieve its $20 million goal. He referred to two signs beside the podium that listed many of the campaign's major contributors.

“There are names you will know, but you will also see a bunch of people you don't know, and I think that's going to be the story of this campaign,” said Townsend, who encouraged those in the audience to serve as the Library's emissaries in connecting the campaign to potential donors.

“This is not about us,” Townsend concluded. “This is about our children. This is about our children's grandchildren. This is going to have an impact on this region for 100 years."

Struggling with emotion, Townsend said, "We need to pout a shovel in this dirt, and get this party started.”

To learn more about the new Kennett Library & Resource Center, visit www.kennettlibrary.org. To make a donation to the new library, visit www.campaign4kennettlibrary.org or e-mail Mary Hutchins at [email protected]library.org.

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