Kennett library board gets major overhaul

During its reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Kennett Public Library Board of Trustees received a massive overhaul.

Kennett Public Library board members Jerry Brown (from left), Stan Allen, Tom Swett, Jeff Yetter, and Karen Ammon review documents prior to Tuesday night's board meeting.

Kennett Public Library board members Jerry Brown (from left), Stan Allen, Tom Swett, Jeff Yetter, and Karen Ammon review documents prior to Tuesday night's board meeting.

At a meeting attended by fewer than half a dozen residents, the board voted in new leadership, bid farewell to five members, welcomed a new member, and reiterated its commitment to building a new facility.

With seven board members present, two of them holding proxies, the board voted 8-0 for Tom Swett as president, Jeff Yetter as vice-president, and Bill McLachlan as secretary-treasurer. Outgoing president Susan Mackey-Kallis abstained from the vote, explaining that she would be leaving the board to pursue a Fulbright Award in Japan for several months.

Mackey-Kallis said that although she had originally planned to return to the board later in the year, several factors prompted her to change her mind and make the exit permanent. She said she met with her interim replacement, Betsy Del Vecchio, and realized that Pennsbury Township would be well-represented.

In addition, she said the resignations this past week of her friends and fellow board members Doug Thompson, Joan Weber, Rosa Quintana, and Margarita Garay-Zarco, coupled with the resignation during the summer of trustee Geoff Birkett, another good friend, influenced her decision.

Noting that with their departure “the wind has gone out of my sails and the twinkle has gone out of my eye,” Mackey-Kallis said, “My philosophy is to only commit to something if I can give 100 percent, and I am not certain that this remains true for me with KPL. And with so many of my friends gone, it’s not as much fun anymore.”

In a 10-minute closing statement reflecting on her often-turbulent tenure as president, Mackey-Kallis thanked her fellow board members and the library staff for their support and hard work. She said she was proud of the many initiatives accomplished this past year, including a change in the bylaws to improve representation, a 13 percent increase in library board program attendance, and progress in moving forward on plans to build a new library in the borough.

She noted that the change of the library’s name from Bayard Taylor Memorial Library to Kennett Public Library represented a regret, suggesting that she did not realize “the depth of the attachment” to the former name.

However, she urged the board to do more research before changing it back. “For the record, I like the new name, and I love the new logo and branding campaign,” she said.

Mackey-Kallis vowed to continue to be a cheerleader for the library and complimented Swett on his resume and reputation. “From everything that I hear about the new president’s track record of success in the borough and the surrounding community, then KPL is in good hands,” she said. To read her entire statement, click here.

After receiving a bottle of champagne from Karen Ammon, the board’s former vice-president, Mackey-Kallis adjourned the reorganization meeting and handed the reins to Swett.

Swett, who expressed gratitude to Mackey-Kallis for her leadership, said he was delighted and honored to return to service as the library board’s president, a position he held from 1989 to 1992. He also served on the board from 1982 to 1989.

A member of the Historic Kennett Square board since 2001, including two years as president, Swett has worked as an administrator, development director, and board member for a host of area institutions, including Upland Country Day School, the Stroud Water Research Center, Chester County Hospital, Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, First National Bank of Chester County, and Family Services of Chester County.

“The library is blessed by a dynamic, imaginative, personable staff and head librarian who are well regarded by our patrons,” he said. He pointed out that it serves an area of 44,000 — of whom 12,000 are cardholders.

“The stage is being set to provide an even more relevant role in the life of the area,” Swett noted. “The library contributes to the cultural, information management, literary, and economic well-being of our multicultural community with particular sensitivity to young people.”

Swett said that after consulting with other board members, meetings would be held on the same scheduled dates, but the time would be moved up to 5 p.m. He said getting new board members would be a priority, especially in Pocopson and West Marlborough, which have no representation, and New Garden, which just lost two representatives: Weber and Thompson.

He said the 2016 budget, which is currently being reviewed by the county, would have to be approved electronically, and he said he planned to schedule a Saturday morning retreat for the board in the near future.

Swett introduced Del Vecchio, the newest board member, who was appointed by Pennsbury Township to replace Mackey-Kallis.

“I am very honored to be on the board,” Del Vecchio said, describing herself and her husband as “super-users” of the library, having both tutored in the library’s English as a second language program and checking out several hundred books a year.

Del Vecchio said that after her husband’s diabetes resulted in his use of a wheelchair, it became impossible for him to visit the library. She said she would be particularly sensitive to making a new library handicapped-accessible, and Swett said he would value her insight.

In her director’s report, Donna Murray said 10 volunteers worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Martin Luther King Day to rearrange some of the books to serve patrons better, a job that is still not finished. She publicly thanked Carrie Freeman, CEO of United Way of Southern Chester County, for attending a meeting designed to help stem the Adult Literacy Program’s red ink. United Way is the program’s biggest funder.

Murray said that Freeman, who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, suggested tailoring the program to “fit the budget” and that they were working toward that goal.

Yetter, the board’s new vice-president, updated the board on efforts to build a new library, presently focused on purchasing the borough-owned Weinstein property at the intersection of East State and South Willow Streets.

“There is a lot going on, but no rush to anything,” Yetter said.

He explained that once a contract is signed with the architect, the board would go forward with a tentative agreement of sale that would allow time to ensure that the tract has no hidden impediments, such as bedrock or buried tanks.

Yetter stressed that before the board could begin a capital campaign, it would need to show plans to prospective donors so that they would know where their money is going. “It could be a spectacular entrance to the borough,” Yetter said of the Weinstein tract.

During public comment, Tiffany Volovich, a volunteer for the library’s Home and Garden Day, an annual fundraising tour, said the group wanted the board to know that all proceeds support children’s programming and the Adult Literacy Program. She said 1,000 more children were served this year.

“It’s a worthwhile effort,” she said as board members nodded in agreement. She added that greater board support would make it even better.

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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