By Fran Maye
KENNETT SQUARE -- The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library will stay in Kennett Square.
The library’s board of directors this week agreed to a plan that calls for demolition of the existing building on East State Street and construction of a state-of the-art library building that will also serve as a community center.
And library officials say it will happen soon.
The library’s 5.3-acre plot of land located on Way’s Lane, just outside the borough in Kennett Township has been put for sale. The asking price is $990,000. The library bought it for $500,000 in 2000. Proceeds from that sale will help to fund the new library.
“We made a decision to stay in the borough,” said Bob Scott, president of the library’s board of directors. “Our plan now is to build a new library on the current site. Once our decision was made to stay in the borough, there was no reason to keep the Way’s Lane property. Our statement to the community is there’s a For Sale sign there, and we are very serious about this new project.”
The decision officially ends an ambitious expansion project that involved the library, the Anson B. Nixon Park, Kennett Borough and the Kennett Area YMCA. Last year, the Kennett YMCA pulled out of the project and soon after began its own expansion. Scott said that plan had moved too slow for library officials and lacked a forward momentum.
Back in 2000, the library board purchased the Way’s Lane property with the intention of building a library there. A capital campaign was launched and money poured in. However, the decision divided the community. There were demonstrations and protests from those who wanted to see the library stay within the confines of the borough limits. Because it was so contentious, the plan to build on Way’s Lane never gained favor.
Scott said those funds collected so long ago have been held.
“The money was not used for operating funds of the library,” he said. “That money was dedicated solely toward the construction of a new library. We have not used donors’ money that they put toward the new library when they gave 10 or 15 years ago. I want these people to know that money was kept in a dedicated fund.”
Scott said library officials are working on a plan to temporarily relocate during construction.
“Construction managers looked at the (library) building and told us it would cost more to renovate and enlarge the building than it would be to tear it down and build a brand new one,” Scott said. “That building is so old that by code the electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning are ancient.”
And borough council, Scott said, is 100 percent behind the plan to demolish and build a new library.
“They (council) are very excited about putting a new face in the middle of town,” Scott said. “They very much want the library to stay in town.”
But the largest obstacle in staying in town remains the parking issue.
“Parking is the biggest complaint we hear about,” said Donna Murray, the library’s executive director.
But the plan in place now not only addresses the parking issue, it rectifies it. Scott could not elaborate on the details, but said negotiations are ongoing with borough council and an agreement is expected soon.
“The library is an essential part of this community and will have (adequate) parking,” Scott said.
But the new library won’t resemble the old library at all. There won’t be nearly as much space dedicated for paper books. There will be a focus on electronic books and electronic data. There will be space dedicated solely for the adult literacy program. Currently, the literacy program meets in the hallway of the library. There will also be a huge focus on children’s programs.
“This will be a place where people can see from the street what is going on in the library,” Scott said. It could have meeting areas, children’s areas. We want it to be a library and community center. The design will be much different than it is now.”
Scott said that within the next six months a new capital campaign will be launched, and a feasibility study will be completed. And if negotiations with the borough are positive, the work could begin soon after that.