Library thanks EM supervisors for support

Bayard Taylor continues to cope with cuts in state funding, need to transition toward digital products

By Mike McGann, Editor,

The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Although it might seem counter-intuitive in this new digital age, use of local libraries continues on the upswing — especially at Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square.

Donna Murray, the director of the library, as well as library board trustee William Landmesser, a township resident, appeared before the Board of Supervisors Monday night to present their annual report.

And by embracing digital reading materials and book readers, the library is working to keep up with the technology needs of local residents, while facing the challenge of reductions in state funding — almost 75% of the library budget comes from local municipal contributions. And while the township remains a steady supporter — $121,530 in 2011 — the worry continues to be in getting neighboring communities to step up and/or maintain their contributions in these difficult economic times.

“We working with all of the townships that have been under their ‘fair share’,” Murray said, citing contribution figures based on use. Newlin, she said, which long had not supported the library at all has incrementally increased its support and now is funding at a “fair share” rate. Other local townships — including some like Pennsbury, which have cut their contribution — remain a work in progress, she said.

The township is one of two local townships, along with Kennett, that have dedicated library taxes to fund the ongoing operation of the library. Murray said about 16% of the library’s users come from the township, which is tops.

State funding for libraries has been slashed in recent years, in Bayard Taylor’s case, dropping from around $160,000 a year to less than $100,000, which has shifted the burden more the local municipalities.

While local funding has managed to fill the gap for normal operation, the loss of state funds have really hurt some of the library’s secondary programs. Landmesser cited the loss of funding for adult literacy programs.

“We lost state and federal funding, but we’re trying to hold the program together,” he said of the program, currently the largest of its kind in Chester County. As of now, the library was able to make cuts elsewhere to fund some of the program, with the United Way of Southern Chester County paying more than a third of the costs, with the rest coming from grants and other donations.

Despite the challenges, the library continues to be open 60 hours a week. Operation costs for 2011 came in under the $676,000 budgeted — about $20,000, Landmesser said, because of the careful management of Murray.

At the same time, the library has expanded its offerings of digital reading materials and even has a small number of Nook Readers available for local readers to try out.

“We’re working to stay current,” Murray said.

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