Library board nears vote on new leadership

On the heels of a year punctuated by turnover and turmoil for the Kennett Public Library Board of Trustees, its first meeting of 2016 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, could represent a turning point.

The Board of Trustees of the Kennett Public Library, which still bears its former name on the building, is scheduled to elect new officers on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The Board of Trustees of the Kennett Public Library, which still bears its former name on the building, is poised to elect new officers.

Board members, half of whom are new within the past year, are scheduled to vote on a slate of officers for the board’s Executive Committee. Susan Mackey-Kallis, the outgoing board president, had previously announced that she would step down from her executive post to pursue a Fulbright Association award that would require her to be in Japan for six months.

Since then, Mackey-Kallis, a Pennsbury Township resident, said she would remove herself entirely from the board during her stay abroad, a decision that prompted Pennsbury Township to appoint her replacement, Betsy Del Vecchio, at its reorganization meeting on Monday, Jan. 5.

Mackey-Kallis said that she would preside over the first part of Tuesday’s meeting, the election of officers. Mackey-Kallis said that she would not vote on officers unless the ballots of the other 12 board members resulted in a tie.

“Once a slate of officers has been approved, I will step down as president and turn over the running of the remainder of the meeting (which will be the bulk of the meeting) to the new president,” Mackey-Kallis said in an email.  “I will step off of the board at the conclusion of the meeting.  I am hopeful that Betsy Del Vecchio can attend the January meeting as an observer and be introduced to the new board as my replacement, effective at the conclusion of the January meeting.”

Although Doug Thompson, who heads the Board Development Committee, which is responsible for presenting a slate of officers to the board, had promised at the trustees’ December meeting to distribute a list of candidates before the end of the year, that did not happen. In the email, Mackey-Kallis said she could only speculate that the delay was caused by the influx of new board members who needed to be considered for executive positions.

Mackey-Kallis said that although she has no information on who would be selected, she expressed great confidence in the Board Development Committee’s fact-finding and leadership and said she would “fully support whatever slate of officers they present to the full board.” However, she noted that because she would be “absent for most of the upcoming year,” she did not feel it would be appropriate for her to cast a ballot unless needed to break a tie.

During the past year, the board’s leadership has come under fire from the public as well as through a feasibility report the board commissioned in preparation for the capital campaign needed to build a new library. A number of residents registered outrage when the board changed the library’s name from Bayard Taylor Memorial to Kennett Public and continued a plan set in motion by previous boards to expand by moving outside the Borough of Kennett Square.

The board has since changed course on the relocation and is pursuing a proposal to acquire the Weinstein property at the intersection of East State and South Willow Streets, as well as nearby parking, from the borough. An agreement of sale could be ready for approval at the Tuesday meeting.

The report by MacIntyre Associates, which was presented to the board in September, suggested that potential donors for a capital campaign – a project on the drawing board for more than a decade – diminished during years of board turnover and rancor. The recommendations to rebuild public trust included the resignations of Mackey-Kallis and Vice-President Geoff Birkett, who stepped down in July.

Criticizing the library board’s lack of accountability and “closed-shop” persona, respondents referenced in the MacIntyre report also urged the library to change the way it selects its board from the municipalities it serves: the Borough of Kennett Square and East Marlborough, Kennett, Newlin, New Garden, Pennsbury, Pocopson, and West Marlborough townships. Acting on those findings, the board revised its by-laws, a move that led to several of the new board appointments. It also vowed to post updated material online, a pledge that has yet to materialize.

When told that minutes and financial information had not been updated for six months, Mackey-Kallis said that Library Director Donna Murray cited glitches with the library’s new website. Mackey-Kallis said the third-quarter financial overview and minutes for meetings dating back to May would be posted soon.

The public is invited to attend the next board meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the library, which is located at 216 E. State St., Kennett Square. Among the other expected agenda items are votes on the 2016 budget and the contract for the architect chosen for the new building project.


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