Op/Ed: What will it take to build new library?

What is it going to take to build a new library? What is it that we, as a community, need to do? After two decades of drama and struggle, the time has come for us to address the library issue. To do so, people will need to join the discussion and participate in the process. The voice of the silent majority needs to be heard.

Toward that end, an independent task force is being assembled. The mission is pretty simple – to help our community come together and build a new library. At this point, it is unclear where this path will lead, but we are committed to following it to its end. I have been designated to represent Kennett Township, the Borough of Kennett Square has joined, and other municipalities will soon follow.

Why do we need an independent task force? The answer is there appears to be a serious disconnect between the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, now called the Kennett Public Library, and the community it serves. In the last 12 months there has been a tumultuous turnover of the board, a poorly advised name change, two major funders actively discussing withholding funds, a nasty public confrontation with its largest funder, and most recently a feasibility study that was unambiguous that the community is not prepared to support a $6 million capital campaign to build a new library (for a copy of the study go to: https://kennett.pa.us/blog/2015/10/26/kennett-public-library-feasibility-study/).

In response to these challenges and recognizing that our community still needs a new library, the task force will start by holding public meetings to better understand what the community’s concerns are. People will need to express themselves to be heard. Over time, this will evolve into a discussion of what people want to see in a new library and what can be done to increase its usage and to reach new audiences. Establishing a clearer vision will build broader library support in the community. And then we need to talk about how to pay for it. All this will take time and patience.

It will be important to keep our eye on the prize, which is for our community to have a vibrant, 21st century library, a central gathering place, an intellectual point of exchange and a portal of knowledge. The task force will serve as an opportunity for greater public participation in the effort. In the spirit of Bayard Taylor - let’s explore the world together!

Collis Townsend

Kennett Township

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