Library board working to finalize name

What’s in a name? For a certain library in Kennett Square, plenty of angst and consternation.

The Kennett Public Library facade displays the facility's former name: The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library.

The Kennett Public Library facade displays the facility's former name: The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library.

Now the facility – formerly known as the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library and presently called the Kennett Public Library – is revisiting its most recent moniker change, one that occurred a year ago.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Kennett Public Library Board of Trustees board hired Carl Francis, chief strategist for Envisian, a Malvern-based strategic advisory firm, to assist the library in determining where it wants to go in the future and how to get there. One of the board’s most ambitious long-term goals is to oversee the construction of a new facility, necessitated by growth that has rendered the present location in the 200 block of East State Street in Kennett Square inadequate.

A bust of Bayard Taylor is one of the few reminders of the Kennett Public Library's previous namesake.

A bust of Bayard Taylor is one of the few reminders of the Kennett Public Library's previous namesake.

But before it can proceed with that initiative, the board has said it needs to reevaluate some past decisions. It acknowledged that however well-intentioned the last name change was, a previous board incurred substantial wrath when it failed to involve stakeholders in the decision. The library serves residents in East Marlborough, Newlin, New Garden, Kennett, Pennsbury, Pocopson and West Marlborough townships and Kennett Square Borough.

So one of Francis’s first tasks was to reassess the library’s name. To accomplish that, he said he began delving into the library’s history, which dates back to 1820. During its first 76 years of existence, the library had five different names.

In 1896, it was named the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library Company to honor one of the borough’s prominent citizens. In fact, Taylor’s mother organized the first library. And although company dropped off the name at some point, Bayard Taylor endured for nearly 120 years, until April 2015, Francis said.

Carl Francis explains the procedure in play to determine the best name for the Kennett library.

Carl Francis explains the procedure in play to determine the best name for the Kennett library.

Francis shared his research with groups of library stakeholders during a series of meetings on Tuesday, April 12. He said the board wants to make sure that the public understands the thoroughness and the methodology being used.

He said when he first discussed the divide over the name – Bayard Taylor vs. Kennett Public – with Board President Tom Swett, he was told: “It’s tragic. We are all on the same side. We all love the library.”

Francis said that pleasing everyone was not possible, but involving everyone in the process was feasible. He said he reviewed all of the feedback the library received on the name change, from news articles to emails, and he concluded that sufficient input existed to create a name that is “inclusive, effective and fresh.”

Ultimately, that decision will rest with the board, he said, and numerous brainstorming meetings have occurred. “You need more than a name; you need a brand,” he explained, stressing the need to incorporate the library’s history into the process. “The job of a name is to get people’s attention and bring them in.”

Francis said that at one point, a list of 36 choices existed; it has since been reduced substantially. The leading contender is the Kennett Library, with the addition of homage to its former namesake, creating the Kennett Library at Bayard Taylor Commons.

Taylor, a trailblazing travel writer, remains a significant figure in the area’s history and should certainly remain an integral part of the library’s presence, Francis said.

Library Board President Tom Swett says he's eager to get everyone on same page.

Library Board President Tom Swett says he's optimistic that passion for the library will get everyone on same page.

“It’s not a matter of keeping him alive,” Francis added. “He’s been allowed to disappear; it just happened.”

Francis said he could envision a Bayard Taylor Memorial Lecture Series, a reading room, or sculptures. He suggested that the image of a young Bayard Taylor at the library – long before he wrote 65 books – could offer inspiration to children, especially since Taylor began writing poems at age 7.

A Bayard and Friends Committee might be a good way to resurrect Bayard as well as some of the area’s other significant leaders, such as Indian Hannah, Francis suggested.

Because the response to the three presentations on Tuesday were so positive, Francis said two additional public sessions to present the branding plan would be held on Tuesday, May 3, at 3 and 6 p.m. at the Kennett Township Building.  Registration will be available later this week via the library website, he said.
The library will also be preparing a written summary of the presentation that is expected to be available within 10 days and will also be accessible via the website. Francis said the board expects to vote on the first phase of the brand development process at its May meeting. The entire branding plan will be implemented in phases as the library begins work on planning and building a new library facility, likely over a three- to five-year period, Francis said.

Once the name change occurs, the board plans to issue its first-ever annual report and begin to focus on consistency. The building still bears Bayard Taylor’s moniker, and library records and documentation are all different.

In the meantime, Swett said that the growing use of the library makes the process of moving forward to expand the facility even more imperative. He said the 116,000 visits in 2015 represented a 13 percent increase over 2014.

“It’s wonderful to be part of such a dynamic and growing institution,” Swett said.

 

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