Saturday, September 26, 2009

Phoenixville Library - Isn't it time to get serious about the future?

Just last week I reported on the newest changes to the Phoenixville Library's expansion project.

Library employees were distributing pamphlets practically begging for support for their plan to close Second Avenue and build a grandiose addition which could ultimately cost far more than the projected $6.5 million dollars.

Today, in the following article from the Mercury, John Kelly, Executive Director of the library, states "...we will have no choice but to begin the slow and painful process of closing our doors unless there are increases in our streams of income..."

If the library cannot maintain it's hours or future existence due to a possible funding cut of $90,000, what will they do if Phoenixville Area School District decides to cut the district funding also?

They absolutely cannot come with hat in hand to the borough residents. The well of taxpayer monies is already drained by some members of Council with double digit increases in taxes every year due to budgetary increases along with wasteful spending, i.e., $125,000 annually for CDC's downtown district bling.

Poor planning decisions coupled with the dynamics of today's economy are easily recognizable in the flawed library plan but the damage to the reputation of the institution can still be reversed.

ONLY if the problems are addressed using linear thinking!

Begin with the following question. If the library cannot afford to keep the doors open now, how can it possibly expect to build ANY addition?

The logical answer is, they cannot build an addition at this time.

The next question should be along this order. What can we do to maintain our services and maintain our building if we lose a certain percentage of our funding?

If the library board were to come forward and ask, I mean sincerely ask, for help from the community in forming a community committee to identify the ways and means to keep the library operating at the current level, I believe the community will wholeheartedly respond.

Many ideas could surface from such a group, and asking for help is not an act of desperation. It would be an act of commonsense.

No one wants to see the library close it's doors.


Budget cuts will affect Phoenixville library hours

Saturday, September 26, 2009

By Dennis J. Wright,

PHOENIXVILLE — The borough's public library, like most libraries in the state, is working to determine the effect of cuts proposed in the state budget which currently stand at 34 percent to 75 percent from the library subsidy and Access Pennsylvania dollars.

These cuts will result in the library cutting their hours of operation, including staying closed on Sundays.

Phoenixville Library Executive Director John Kelley said the cuts will cripple free access to information in the library.

"As you know by now, an overall state budget deal has been reached with a few exceptions," Kelley said. "Details about the funding levels for nearly all budget line items remain under wraps at this time. Should the library subsidy remain at the 34 percent cut and the Access Pennsylvania cut remain at 75 percent cut, this will be devastating for our community library.

"It will translate into a significant loss of funding for its day-to-day operations. The loss for Phoenixville's library could reach as high as $90,000.00 for 2010, depending on where the cuts come from and how steep the percent of loss is in the current budget deal."

Kelley said that the Phoenixville Library can ill afford any loss of funding.

"A loss of funding at these levels will mean a lot of things," he said. "For example, there would be less hours of service, fewer staff, less materials for homework help and supplementary materials supporting school curriculums, fewer materials for home schoolers, self development, job seekers, resume writing, and career development.

"There will be longer checkout lines and, overall, less programing for adults and children. In other words, we will have no choice but to begin the slow and painful process of closing our doors unless there are increases in our streams of income to help offset this loss of funding. There also needs to be a change in the mindset of many of our legislators in Harrisburg in order to reinstate these drastic cuts for libraries in 2011."

The Phoenixville Library, which usually opens on Sundays during the fall and winter seasons, will remain closed until the state situation is resolved.

"Starting this October, the library will be closed on Sundays year round," Kelley said. "While the board is sympathetic to this loss of hours, the reality is that as funding is reduced and not replaced, the library needs to make serious adjustments to its hours, programs and services to absorb those cuts."

After a successful summer of programs, Kelley said that it just showed how important the library is to the community.

"This past summer over 2 million books were read by our school children across the state during our statewide summer reading program," Kelley said. "The library saw record numbers of children with over 9,300 persons having attended our summer programs and our teens presented 1,645 book reviews, with our children logging over 240,000 minutes of reading time.

"Summer reading programs, as well as many other valuable library services, will end without sufficient state support. Public libraries are busier than ever, especially in this economic climate, serving families who are struggling to make ends meet. Libraries are the emergency room for the unemployed."

Last fiscal year, the Phoenixville Public Library circulated more than 271,000 items from their inventory, to which Kelley said is the third largest circulation in the Chester County Library System out of 18 libraries.

"There were more than 27,000 searches on our in-house computers, and these were just the ones we counted," he said. "There were more than 238,300 visits to the library."

Kelley said he is urging the community to call or write to their elected officials about the drastic cuts to libraries over the next year.

"It may encourage them to rethink their decision for 2011," he said. "You can find your elected representative by going to and click on 'call your legislator'."


Anonymous said...

Didn't the Phoenixville Library receive a half million dollar donation recently? What is that being spent on, lawyers and engineering studies and teas? Isn't it about time that the library does a financial disclosure; not general stuff like "supplies" or "fundraising" but the specific things that our tax dollars are paying for. They are getting a lot of local money, but also state and federal. What is it actually being spent on? Better yet would be an independent audit. I would not give them a dime until they are audited. There is a dark cloud hanging over that group because of the way they are handling the expansion plan. They should welcome an audit to clear up any suspicions.

Anonymous said...

Closing on Sunday? Isn't that one of their busier days? How about closing on Wednesday?

Oh, now I get it. More people would be hurt by not being open on Sunday. What a way to get the citizens up in arms about the cost cutting.

Way to go Mr. Kelly!!@!

Anonymous said...

Once again lies. The state contribution to the library revenues is maybe 17% or one third of the amount it gets from school taxes. The school board voted to increase the amount we pay to the library. Even if the state voted to decrease funding by one third, the net amount of money received from state and local taxpayers would be a wash.
In addition, the Phoenixville library has been open more hours than other branches. Cutting a whole day - when children and parents have off from work and school - is one more drama queen stunt, and not the act of considered, intelligent and competent management.

Anonymous said...

Thanks 2nd Ave. residents!!

Let's just let the library close and let the downtown regress 15 yrs so our taxes are lower. Who cares if there is nothing to do in town anymore and our property values fall through the floor?

At least our taxes are low!

Anonymous said...

As far as I was aware, the funding for the expansion and the funding for their operating expenses are from 2 different entities. The Library Foundation is the group responsible for the expansion (and monies received by grants/donations are specifically for expansion) and the operating funds come from grants/donations/library fees that are for operating the library, not expanding it. If I am misinformed, please let me know, because I would also hate for the library to use operating money for the expansion while cutting the programs/hours/etc. to do so.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon. 7:09 AM,
Why are you blaming the residents of Second Avenue?
Is it their fault that the Library is so mismanaged?
Is it their fault the Library is paying the librarian twice the salary of comparable librarians in the state?
Are they to blame for the library paying a lawyer to attend every meeting held for the possible library expansion?(typically a lawyer will be paid $1000.00 per meeting outside of their office).

The Library and the Library Foundation are in fact two separate groups but no one knows where the money is coming from and where it is being spent.


Anonymous said...

I heard that the librarian makes around $100,000 a year in pay and benefits. Sounds awfully high for what the job entails.

Anonymous said...

Karen. Since the pasd forensic audit cost the taxpayers 45k, how would one move forward and who would pay for an audit for the liarbrary?

Karen said...

Tough question, Anonymous 4:01 p.m.

We have all learned the library is a seperate entity from the Phoenixville Area School District, at least that is what I have come to believe.

If the above is fact, (and it's just a "garden club" organization) I don't know how any outside request or demand for a forensic audit could be performed.

Unless, of course, some hard proof of surfaced of a need for such an audit, and the library is actually governed by county, state, or federal law.

Not a question I can answer definitively.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed that all the drawings of the library expansion have been removed from the library's website. A good sign, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I would guess they have been taken down because the design has changed and they do not have the new drawings.

Anonymous said...

So we send our money to pasd. Seems as if that money is somewhat looked after, but the audit showed there were lots of problems.

So then pasd sends money to the liarbrary, they pay huge salaries and don't account for where it's spent and we sit here with our thumbs up our culios?

Gotta be a better way or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Most other public libraries are not primarily funded by local school taxes. The Phoenixville Library is acting in a disingenuous way, pretending to be hurt by any decrease in state funding. They got an increase from the school board already. They get money from local property taxes, state and federal taxes. Other libraries are not so lucky, they will really be hit by a decrease from the state. Crying wolf is so unattractive.

Anonymous said...

Most other public libraries are not primarily funded by local school taxes. The Phoenixville Library is acting in a disingenuous way, pretending to be hurt by any decrease in state funding. They got an increase from the school board already. They get money from local property taxes, state and federal taxes. Other libraries are not so lucky, they will really be hit by a decrease from the state. Crying wolf is so unattractive.