Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IT'S OVER!!! Phoenixville library withdraws expansion proposal

Praise the Lord!!

It's over!

Out of courtesy and respect for the person who called with the news of the end of this long struggle yesterday, I gave my word to refrain from publishing the information until the Mercury newspaper had the opportunity to break the news in print.

There will be much to discuss later on this issue.

For now, enjoy this wonderful news!


Phoenixville library withdraws expansion proposal

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By Dennis J. Wright, dwright@pottsmerc.com

PHOENIXVILLE — In a unanimous vote, the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation voted Monday to withdraw its current expansion proposal due to unanticipated funding challenges.

In a statement provided by the library foundation, the board states that, "the needs of the library have not changed, and there can be no doubt that the library must expand in order for its mission to be fulfilled. However, the library has just recently faced some unanticipated funding challenges and believes that in order to carry out its mission to provide educational, cultural and recreational resources for the community, it first must establish a self-sustaining financial model.

"The library remains committed to expanding and to impacting more lives in our community for years to come. To accomplish this, the library will embark on an endowment campaign to allow for future expansion and to ensure financial sustainability. Our needs are greater than ever and we will continue working to make certain that the library carries on to fulfill its mission."

The library expansion project planned for a renovation and addition that would provide some 33,000 square feet of interior space to accommodate an expanded children's library, a new young adult collections space, an enlarged computer services and instructional center, and expanded public information, meeting and activity areas. The total cost of the project is estimated at $6.5 million.

The current library's 6,500-square-foot footprint — including the 1902 Carnegie Library and the 1987 addition — would expand to include an additional 6,000 square feet across Second Avenue, which would close off that section of the street.

A new main entrance to the three-floor structure would be placed off an entry plaza on Main Street. Diagonal parking is proposed on sections of Main Street.

Traffic on Second Avenue would remain two-way from Starr to B streets, run one way west to the library at Park Alley and one-way north on Park.

Susan Mostek, director of development and volunteer services for the library, feels the move was made in the best interest of the library.

"I fully respect the board's decision because I think we have to act in the best interest of the library," Mostek said. "I felt they were moving forward the entire time. The need is necessary. How and when the expansion will happen will need to be looked at in the future. The door isn't entirely closed. The proposal is withdrawn for now."

Library board President Sue Meadows said that the library has been struggling due to financial restraints.

"Because of the current recession, Gov. (Ed) Rendell has cut funds to the libraries," Meadows said. "As president of the library board, we have taken the steps to close on Sundays and are examining other ways to provide information to the public due to the funding cuts. Libraries across the state are struggling and we are struggling as well."

The withdrawal of the proposal is being supported by Ketchum, a national fundraising consulting firm the foundation board has retained to investigate the viability of raising funds for an endowment campaign.

Library executive director John Kelley said that the move to bring in Ketchum was wise.

"Every organization who is looking to expand uses Ketchum to see what the feasibility would be, and they were hired to assist us with this process," Kelley said. "They came onboard when we realized that we were having difficulty with the state. I see this as an opportunity to help us grow. This could turn out to be a good thing.

"We discussed the decision that the board made and we believe this is the right course of action," he said. "Considering the cuts with the state and possibly the county, we have to look at the long-term viability of the library. It is a concern of mine as well as the board which lead to this decision. The idea of need is not going to go away."

Kelley continued, "This could be construed as a bad thing, but we are looking at it as a good thing. We knew the economical fireball would hurt us as well as it has hurt others. We didn't know how much it would hurt us. Now that we know, we looked back and made the decision today. We hope that the community understand that when we say we are facing cuts, we mean it."

With the uncertainty of funds coming into the library, Kelley said Monday's decision has been an option.

"The decision has been evolving because we haven't been sure of what the county would be doing as far as libraries go," he said. "The state has cut funding $22,000 from us, which is huge. We are looking at a total of $70,000 plus from our funding for the year. We don't know what the county is going to do. This has been a significant hit to the library.

"The better road to take right now is to make sure the library is secure, our programs are sustainable and we are able to provide information to the community. Ketchum will help us become more viable for the community. I have tremendous confidence that this will work. We are the third-busiest library in the county with 271,000 items through our circulation. We had the largest summer program in the county."

News of the board's withdrawal of the proposal made one neighbor along Second Avenue extremely happy.

"This is wonderful news," Karen Johns said. "We have eight grandchildren and they are in the park all of the time. The park is always active, and the primary concern has been for the kids.

"I'm encouraged by the news of the change in the library board's plan. I stand ready to help redefine any future expansion plans that would be mutually beneficial for the library and the community."



Karen said...


October 26, 2009

Henry A. Wagner President
Phoenixville Borough Council
140 Church Street Phoenixville, PA 19460

RE: Phoenixville Public Library Expansion

Dear President Wagner:

You have been apprised that the Foundation Board has been pursuing two strategic avenues for the vision of the Library. The first course of action, which has been public, is the physical expansion of the existing Carnegie library building. The second course of action is to secure funds for the capital expansion project and to strengthen the library's endowment. We hired Ketchum, an independent campaign management consulting firm, to investigate the viability of capital funding. Based on the information we have received the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation Board has voted today to withdraw its Expansion Proposal at this time, and to pursue strengthing the Library's endowment. This decision was made after serious consideration of current economic conditions and the budgetary concerns facing the Phoenixville Public Library.

The Foundation Board thanks everyone who supported this project and wishes to assure the public that it will continue to work to promote the Library's sustainability for the present and for the future .


Maureen Ash President

cc: Josh Gould, PASD representative to the Library Board of Trustees

Anonymous said...

Council must now withdraw the offer to sell Second Ave for $1. The conditions set for the sale included the fact that the Library must comply with all other regulations. However, I don't recall there ever being a time line as part of the sale so....if they comply in 5 years, the deal is still on the table. It must be removed by a motion of Council or this will come back to haunt when the ecomomy improves or the minute the Library cons....excuse me I meant convinces some wealthy benefactor to part with some real money.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this will become a "Teachable Moment" for the Library Board, and the Phoenixville Community.

The Phoenixville Region, needs to learn from this very expensive experience, of how you can not DIVIDE a community, over something, that EVERYONE agrees with, and that is an expanded Library System.

Yours in the Successful Revitalization, ReJuvenation, and Reinvention of Phoenixville,

Chris DeVol
East Vincent Township

Anonymous said...

does anyone seriously believe a Wealthy Donor, is going to give money, to something that has DIVIDED the community??

get real!!

there must be something in the water of phoenixville!

it's time to move on, and heal the wounds, that this board and council have created

Anonymous said...

I wish that I could accept this news with unbridled delight and optimism, but I cannot.

The letter from Ms. Ash to Mr. Wagner, and the comments of Mr. Kelley in the Pottstown Mercury article, suggest that the Library Foundation Board is only temporarily withdrawing its proposal. The letter and comments also make clear that the only consideration in the board's decision was a financial one.

The Library Foundation Board, and library management, continue to misunderstand: The library serves the community, not the other way around.

Until library leadership abandons once and for all this "concept" proposal, and until library leadership approaches the community and clearly says, "We have heard your concerns, and we want to work with you to create a plan that works for everyone and damages no one," I personally will continue to be vigilant.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation paid for their lovely stationery with this statement at the bottom:

"Remember the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation in your estate planing."

And these folks want to lead a $6.5M expansion effort?

Anonymous said...

Folks. It's $6.5 million plus another $2 million to furnish. Get with the program.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:05,

Do you really think it is possible to create a plan to build anything anywhere that "damages no one"?

Obviously the answer is of course not.

A Phoenixville Taxpayer said...

The plan is NOT dead! Only temporarily suspended due to lack of money.

When all copies of this plan are shredded, burned, and water soaked, and erased from the memory of all concerned, will I believe the plan is dead.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the Library received a funding increase from the school district recently. Does anyone know the numbers involved? They get a very large percentage of their money from the school district, so I wonder if the money reason is really just something they are saying to save face. Admitting an idea is bad can be embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

I guess this means with the upcoming borough council elections we can focus on other broader issues other than all focus being on the library expansion.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure pasd gave them an extra 3% this year. Lot more than I got. How bout you?

Anonymous said...

Karen, shame on you.
- many of your neighbors

Anonymous said...

Karen...do you even go to the library and check out things? It's easy to shoot down things if you never use them. You also say that your main focus is on the children, but it seems to me the main focus is on you and your feelings on the issue.

Anonymous said...

It would be a mistake to set aside the library expansion issue in the upcoming Borough elections. The Library Board has not permanently withdrawn their proposal, and so long as there is a possibility of this proposal being resurrected, we need to continue to fight it.

We need to vote ourselves, and get others out to vote, so that we get council members and school board members in office who will put this "concept" proposal to rest once and for all.

Michael Kammerdiener said...

I have a library card, I utilize many of the services of the library on a regular basis, and I have been opposed to this proposal from the moment I understood it.

How many times must it be said: It is not just a few neighbors in the immediate vicinity of the library who are opposed to this project? It is many neighbors in the vicinity of the library, and many residents throughout the Borough, and many library card holders, who are opposed to this "concept" proposal.

How many times must it be said: We are not opposed to library expansion per se, we are opposed to a proposal with so many flaws (traffic, parking, Reeves Park, historic preservation, property values, safety) when other perfectly satisfactory options exist.

How many times must it be said: This is a vanity project being imposed upon this neighborhood and this community by individuals who will not suffer the downside consequences of the current plan and who would never tolerate such a plan in their own neighborhoods.

We have said, many times, that we are willing to work with the library to create a solution that meets the needs of both the community and the library. To date, our invitation has not been accepted. Mr. Kelley, Ms. Meadows, Ms. Ash, Ms. Mostek, Mr. Deveney, we are here, and our invitation stands.

Anonymous said...

It's ain't over -- just on pause until the money can be raised.

It's just as much as issue for the Borough election today as it was next week -- especially as many of these people will be in office once the library comes back with the money in hand -- and we all know how "money in hand" talks in Phoenixville!

Anonymous said...

I am interested in knowing what percentage of the Library Board live in Phoenixville. It seems to me that since the library receives tax money from Phoenixville School District, that at least half of those on the board should reside in Phoenixville.

Anonymous said...

What surprises me is that apparently the Library Board did not investigate the finances necessary to build in the beginning. Therefore, I have to question their wisdom is wasting a great deal of money trying to get this plan approved. I suspect that amount could be around at least $1,000,000. I guess it is possible all of those involved to donate their services, but I sincerely doubt that.

Imagine going into the library and seeing a sign that says "Closed Sundays due to financial constraints' and then thinking how do these people think they can afford at least $8,000,000 for a library!!! You really do have to wonder about the math!

As tax payers don't you think that we should be informed of how much money was wasted?? And who was paid how much, ie architects, engineers, attorneys. etc.????

Here we are with a deficit in the Borough budget and now we have wasteful spending by the Library Board. They should be held accountable. I think perhaps they forget they do have legal accountability.

Anonymous said...

Karen Johns did nothing wrong other than attempt to protect her property and that of her neighbors. Do you really think that a building that large-going across the street and as high as the chimney - would not lower the property values of the houses on second street behind the library.

In addition, there was the issue of the Reeves deed intent. I believe she was protecting that as well. It is easy to be critical while you are sitting on your sofa at home. Or perhaps you don't live in the area or even Phoenixville for that matter!

What about the attempt to make Park Alley a street? What would that do to the property values in that neighborhood.

SEE THE BIG PICTURE before being critical.

Anonymous said...

The only reason Wagner announced this on candidate night ,whereby 5 to 7 residents show up and the rest committee people for both parties is because he is losing this election next week and trying to save face. I know he is the council president and is the one to recieve this info but why didn't he hold it for a month like he did with the resignation of a Planning Commission member?

It is clear that Henry is an opportunist and doesn't have the goodwill of all the residents in mind with hairbrained votes i.e. selling property for a dollar, the library and parking authrority issues.

I for one will be watching next week to see how many library people are working the polls for Henry.

I hope tonight someone on council makes a motion to get this sale of Second Ave off the table for a buck and let these arrogant people start all over again and do this by the way the rules are set up just like the rest of the average joe's have to follow instead of cramming a size 13 shoe on a size 8 foot.

Anonymous said...

what is the point of closing the library on sundays?? realistically- how much will that actually save??

Anonymous said...

If the librarian was paid the standard wage of librarians in Pennsylvania there would be plenty of money to stay open on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THE LIBRARY!!! I will use it weekly whether it is big or small. I am disturbed, however, by all of the negativity that my fellow citizens have expressed against it. ANY improvement that the library wants to make should be supported by this community, because it is about KNOWLEDGE. And folks, after you're gone from these little streets that you are so determined to never let change, the library will STILL be here...just like it was here before you ever got to Phoenixville. Support the legacy of the library and leave a wonderful place for those who are coming next.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 5:31 pm,

If you could see the big picture then you might be able to imagine a Reeves Park with an integrated library that would actually make the park better.

The closing of one street will not make a big picture difference in the long run but improving Reeves Park will.

Unfortunately some are so scared of change that they won't allow progress to happen. I think this addition would blend in beautifully with the park and the neighborhood. Within a year of completion all this negativity would be forgotten and we would all be celebrating the great new addition to our town.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny the King Wagner would read this letter at a Candidate Forum leading someone to believe that he had something to do with it and then fail to reaad it at the Borough Council Meeting the night before. So when does the hiding of information from other other council members and the general public stop? Oh, yeah, it stops this Tuesday, November 3rd. Vote for open government. Vote Reber, Tigro, Geutreau and Swartz

Anonymous said...

senley and buckwalter are the ones who care about open goverment. i hate saying that as a democrat but its true.

wagner cares about it ony if it advances his personal agenda or his buddy barry cassidy.

i am voting for marc reber.

Anonymous said...

Its a shame! The library needs to expand. Its amazing how nasty some members of the town and council got with the library. Who cares about the children...Right Karen

Nobody seemed to give a crap when the town decided to demolish houses on griffen for a "For-Profit" Hospital.