The public outcry against the name change of the Bayard Taylor Library is merely the surface reaction to questions about the future of this old and formerly revered local institution.
The idea that an organization which offers access to the public gets named for the municipality in which it sits is not bad. For example, we have the Oxford Library, the Avon Grove Library, the Chester County Library, and the list goes on. But we also have things like the Franklin Institute and Carnegie Hall, which are named for people.
In Kennett Square, the name Bayard Taylor was applied appropriately as an honor to a prominent and historical local citizen who represented literary accomplishment and, by his travels, a thirst for knowledge. Most people in recent history who went to the library didn’t give it much thought except to realize that he was known historically and he was a product of the town.
What was and is more important to those folks are the services the library provides and how they feel when they go there. If they like what they get when they arrive, it doesn’t matter what the name is.
But here’s the thing: The current board is making its biggest public splash about the name change, the library’s convenient accessibility on social media and its plans to move to a new location.
That’s all surface, however, and they need to present something more interesting about the inside.
On the issue of the move, there are people who want it to stay in Kennett Square, but, in reality, most people drive there anyway, so that doesn’t matter much.
And if clients want to find the library on their electronic devices now, it’s easy already.
So the current changes the board is touting have really done nothing but rile up individuals who decry the lack of respect for local traditions.
Here’s what the library should spend more time considering and putting out there for the public:
First, the board should realize that a library is a keeper on knowledge. It’s like the monks in the Dark Ages: The monasteries and their inhabitants were the only places old and new knowledge was safely stored.
The same should be said of the libraries of today. They should be the one place that people can be sure is keeping track, either in preserved volumes or electronic records of what is going on geographically, historically and philosophically — especially for the local area.
It should be a place for writings/books. Paper is going the way of the Model T Ford, and as time goes by, knowledge will be stored essentially on computer-accessed devices. The task of the library is to manage the process of accessing literature for its clients, even as the stacks of books become obsolete.
Second, the library must be the acquiring body of new and current local wisdom and knowledge.
When a famous thinker, speaker, inventor or any other human with useful knowledge comes to town, the library should be the first responder to haul that person in and present a program. This action could be reflected in plans for a community room for programs in any new facility.
And that brings us to a related subject: The Hadley Fund and the Southeastern Chester County Historical Society.
For years Hadley has brought interesting speakers to town for free, but recently it has almost fallen into obscurity. The library must reach out to the Hadley Fund and either work cooperatively with it or merge with it, because they are both in the same business — to bring new knowledge to its constituents.
As for the historical society, its programs diminished and it finally disbanded. We have to wonder if anyone is keeping oral histories or putting on programs of local historical interest. The library is in a position to pick up the slack, research historical sites and even put in some history markers.
Finally, the library must realize that a lot of knowledge is kept in things – things like old military uniforms, old inventions, old wedding relics and just about anything with weight from the past that occupies space.
All that baseball stuff at Burton’s Barbershop and car stuff from Lou Mandich’s garage will have to migrate somewhere, someday. Will it be lost? Will it ever be on formal display?
Again, the library must provide room for STUFF. It must have volunteers that play with that stuff — wrap it up, keep it safe, organize shows about it.
That’s the future of knowledge. Carrying out the process of maintaining it is the job of the library, just like the Dark Ages monks of old.
Whatever they call themselves makes little difference unless the inside — the guts — get strong and put it out there for the public. That’s what we need instead of a name change.