Task force to resolve library board representation issue

Kennett Square won’t cut library funding, will work with neighbors to get board seats

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


A large crowd attended Monday night’s Kennett Square Borough Council meeting to offer comment on whether the borough should continue funding the Kennett Area Library.

KENNETT — Kennett Square will not move to cut funding to the Kennett Area Library in the immediate future, instead joining with other local municipalities to form a task force to make sure that local governments have the right to appoint members to the library board.

About 200 area residents — some from the borough, but many from the other seven municipalities that use the former Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, including much of the Unionville area — attended Monday night’s mostly civil meeting. Although many residents, including a number of children, spoke in support of the library’s programs, officials from both Kennett Square and Kennett Township stressed that their issues were only with the governance and transparency of a library largely funded by taxpayer dollars.

“This is specifically about the library board and how they function,” Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said. “It comes down to representation on the library board.”

The library’s board will meet Tuesday night and is expected to make changes to its operation and, potentially, comply with the municipalities’ requests.

Kennett Square’s Borough Council backed Fetick’s points — and noted that the borough is the third largest financial supporter of the library (despite having the lowest per capita income of all of the municipalities served) and for too many years there have been questions about the operations and financial processes of the library and few answers. Having a board member appointed by the Borough Council would create immediate accountability, Fetick said.

Borough Council President Leon Spencer said that there is clear precedent for such representation — citing the Kennett Fire Company and the Kennett Senior Center, two other regional organizations that receive borough funding.


Kennett Square Borough Council President Leon Spencer makes a point about getting borough representation on the Kennett Area Library board, during Monday night’s Borough Council meeting as Borough Manager Joseph C. Scalise looks on.

Spencer said he would like to see a more diverse membership in general for the library board, including not only minority representation that matches the makeup of the community, but individuals in various industries and disciplines to broaden the knowledge base of the board.

Council Vice President Danilo Maffei, who offered praise for library director Donna Murray and the work of her staff — the library is a growing, important presence in the borough at a time when many libraries are declining — and while supporting the need for borough representation, said he wanted to make sure that it’s understood that everyone involved the current discussions supports and values the library.

Kennett Township Supervisors chair Scudder Stevens — a former library board president — agreed with those assessments, noting that he’s been frustrated by both attempts to get members appointed to the board and to get detailed financial information, both about the library’s operations as well as its fundraising and investments for a proposed new library site in Kennett Township.

Steven’s colleague, supervisor Richard Leff, said that with the eight municipalities speaking with the same voice, it will be easier to communicate on both sides and finally could lead to an end of some 15 years of frustration and controversy over one of the region’s best-used libraries.With nine open seats currently on the board, Leff noted, there should be room for municipal representatives.

Some officials privately suggested that solving this issue will be in the long-term benefit of the library — some of the served municipalities, Pocopson was cited specifically, do not financially support the library. In the past, supervisors in those communities cited the lack of representation as a factor in that decision. With added municipal representation on the board, the officials said, it will be easier to make an argument for all of the served municipalities to help pay for the library. In addition, such a move toward transparency would aid in the library’s fundraising plans to build its new building, they said.

Spencer said he hoped that assuming a positive outcome of Tuesday night’s library board meeting, the controversies of the last 15 years involving the library can finally be put behind the community.

“It’s time to make it happen,” he said.

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