'Topping off' ceremony celebrates new Kennett Library & Resource Center07/19/2022 03:36PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Kennett Square residents Chris Gibbons and his daughter Maia affixed their signatures to the ceremonial beam.
By Richard L. Gaw
On the morning of July 14, an oversized tent served as a temporary venue for speakers to depict the new 33,425 square-foot Kennett Library & Resource Center – under construction and scheduled to open next spring -- in the most glowing of words.
The real star of the “topping off” ceremony, however, was the large steel beam, painted white and dotted with the multi-colored signatures of community members. At about 10 a.m., the beam was pulled into the blue sky by a crane and eventually locked into place into the deep red girder labyrinth of what will become a source of learning, ingenuity and curiosity for the residents of eight municipalities in Southern Chester County.
“This is an exciting time for the whole region,” Library Trustee President Jeff Yetter told an audience of more than 150 who attended the ceremony. “The new Kennett Library & Resource Center will be able to offer so much more than we are able to do in our small, 11,000–square foot library. This library is going to be for everyone in this community.”
In his opening remarks, Yetter said that the library’s capital campaign has to date raised three-quarters of its $21.1 million goal – largely from the support of 700 donations.
“We started this in 2015 under the leadership of Thomas Swett, and we were told ‘No one has ever raised more than $10 million for any non-profit in Chester County,’” he said. “We have now raised $15.5 million.”
Rep. Houlahan submits fund request for $869,538
Throughout the hour-long ceremony, several elected and appointed officials and those involved with the library’s construction spoke eloquently about the impact the new library will have on future generations. Speaking on behalf of U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, her Deputy Chief of Staff and District Director Sue Walker said that Houlahan is the past president of a literacy-based non-profit system.
“The subject of literacy, reading and being available to participate in our public and private dialogue is extraordinarily important to [Chrissy], and she recognizes that literacy is a cornerstone to all that we do, and recognizes that libraries are a place where our community can connect with one another,” Walker said. “Because really, isn’t that what a library truly is?”
She said that Rep. Houlahan’s office has submitted a grant request to the House Committee on Appropriations to help fund the library in the amount of $869,538, which if approved will provide the new library with many furnishings, fixtures and computer technology.
In her remarks, State Sen. Carolyn Comitta called public libraries “great, good places of magic, discovery, learning and imagination that enrich a community.”
“Within the walls of this new library will be more than just shelves of books,” she said. “This new library will allow for educational opportunities including English as a Second Language, literacy programs and classes to develop important workforce skills. This new building will provide a more accessible and environmentally-friendly place for people from all economic backgrounds to learn and explore new opportunities.”
As part of this year’s recently-passed Pennsylvania budget, “we are investing an additional $11 million in libraries across the state – nearly a 20 percent increase in funding,” Comitta said. “This is a huge win for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Rep. Craig Williams called the new library “a focal point of non-partisanship.”
“To me, I see a monument of two things: a monument of community and a monument of kindness,” he said.
During his remarks, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick announced that tickets are now on sale for an upcoming concert with musical legend Patti LaBelle on Sept. 13 at the Longwood Gardens’ Open Air Theatre. The concert, which will benefit the new library and feature La Belle performing with a 17-piece orchestra, will include a VIP Reception with LaBelle and opportunities for 20 corporate sponsorships and individual tickets.
(For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit www.pattiatlongwood.com.)
Fetick gave credit to representatives from area municipalities for their financial contributions to the new library.
“Kennett Square Borough could not make this happen,” he said. “This is not even within the eyesight of what we could possibly do financially. It only happens when the surrounding municipalities get together and say, ‘You guys get to host it, and we get to benefit and we’re all going to come to the table together and make it work.’”
In his address, Library Director Christopher Manna compared the construction of the new Kennett Library & Resource Center to the creation of the United States, which he said was solidified when the Founding Fathers “found what it is that will be our next just cause, because it is about coming together.”
He said that the construction of the new library is about “growth, prosperity, opportunity and seeking that happiness that those founders found many years, that can only happen by coming together.
“Today is about celebrating the building, but also celebrating what we the people have established – we the people of our construction team, we the people of all eight municipalities, we the people of our local, state and federal representatives who support this project, and we the people of all of our community partners showing how we can come together to collaborate.”
All three County Commissioners – Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline – delivered remarks. Additional speakers also included Tyler Arkatin, Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Christina Sappey; Brian DiSabatino, President of EDiS; Keith Leonard, Principal of RRMM Architects; and Rob Lesher from the Pennsylvania Library Association.
The ceremony also included a presentation by Rotary Alliance of Kennett Square, who presented library officials with a $20,000 donation.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].