Kennett Library and Resource Center begin construction


Photo of Richard L. Gaw Celebrating the start of construction on the new Kennett Library and Resource Center, from left to right, Collis Townsend, Administrator and Chair of the Imagine Campaign Cabinet; Jeff Yetter, Chairman of the Board; Mary Hutchins, campaign administrator; and new executive director Christopher Manna.

By Richard L. Gaw, Editor-in-Chief

Throughout the final year of their nearly 20-year journey to build a new library, the visionaries responsible for raising funds for what will become the Kennett Library and Resource Center have asked thousands of members of the community “to imagine a place”.

The “venue” they refer to – which began a construction process last week that is expected to be completed by spring 2023 – is a 33,425 square foot, two-story facility that will include 15 meeting rooms, building for children and adults, an outdoor patio, a 110-seat auditorium with a stage and, in a broader sense, serve as a new and revolutionary complex of learning, resources and opportunities that will forever change the way whose libraries have been traditionally defined.

For now, however, the only physical representation of this vision comes in the form of a fenced-in construction site at the corner of State and Willow streets in Kennett Square, just down the street from the current Library, a lot of 11,000 square foot building that has served the community since 1961.

“Having experienced the revitalization of a library in two other great communities like this, I saw how it galvanized these communities around the library becoming the ‘third place’ in people’s lives after ‘work. “and” home, “said Kennett Library executive director Chris Manna, who began his new job Nov. 22 after several years as a library director in Oklahoma, where he was involved in three library projects , including construction of a new $ 30 million library in Moore, Oklahoma, is slated to open in 2023.

In many ways, however, the site of bulldozers and hard hat-wearing contractors along State Street is just the latest chapter marker in the realization that a new library in Kennett Square is on the way. ‘horizon.

“These are exciting times, but we still have a long way to goSaid Collis Townsend, administrator and cabinet chairman of the Imagine campaign. “I am delighted with the reaction from the community. Now that the earth has started to move, I think more people will understand what an amazing new resource is being built in Kennett Square. This is a 22nd century investment – for our children’s children.

In order to involve and inform all eight municipalities that use and support the library, a marketing campaign has been developed to keep the public informed of the library’s progress through frequent mailings, sending emails, a marketing video and an online newsletter that is distributed weekly.

That works.

“I can’t meet anyone anymore who doesn’t know what’s going on at Kennett Library,” said Jeff Yetter, chair of the library board. “Much of the energy for our campaign for the new library comes from our current library. We used

to have six book clubs and now we have eight. This place is on fire with activity and it lets people know that the Kennett Library is a place where great things happen.

“We have a great campaign cabinet,” Townsend said. “Claire Murray, Phoebe Fisher and Pattie Morgan Miller have just joined us. Collectively, the Cabinet bespeask melaughs about the countryside – well –well-known civic leaders spreading the gospel about the new library in a favorable manner.

Progress has also been made in determining the final cost of the Kennett Library and Resource Center. The library’s new building committee, led by library trustees Brad Peiper and Loren Pearson, recently finalized an agreement with the library’s construction management company, EDiS, to cap the cost of the project at $ 21. $ 1 million.

“In these uncertain times, we wanted to make sure that EDIS and the Library agree on a maximum price for the building. The Maximum Guaranteed Price amendment ensures that our costs will not exceed $ 21.1 million, allowing the price to drop if material prices do not increase as we anticipate, ”said Peiper.

Library receives additional state grant of $ 1.9 million

In early December, the Kennett Library received a Redevelopment Assistance Program award that will allow the library to use up to $ 1.9 million in new grants, thanks to the work of Representative Craig Williams (R-Chester and Delaware), Representative Christina Sappey (D-Chester), Senator Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester County) and Senator John Kane (D-Chester and Delaware), who helped secure the fund.

“I am extremely happy with this grant approval,” Sappey said. “The Kennett Library serves many townships in the Kennett area and this project takes into account how we work and learn together now. The facility will provide a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building with event space, auditorium and multi-purpose rooms for public gatherings and educational programs.

“Many individuals and groups have come together to make this modern library a reality. It’s a testament to the people and the creativity here, so I’m grateful for their efforts and very happy that this funding will help make a dream come true in our community.

How the price will be used – and how much will be used – will be determined by key stakeholders in the library.

“This is great news as an endorsement that the state continues to recognize the Kennett Library, and we are grateful to our lawmakers who have really come their way for us,” Townsend said. “What we’re doing now is evaluating the terms and conditions of the grant to see how we can best use it strategically to help build the new library. “

“It’s like throwing a fishing net”

While several elements of the campaign to build the new library are firmly in place – community outreach, government support and the start of construction – so too is the Kennett Library fundraising campaign, which continues to grow. move forward to secure funding to reach $ 21.1 million. final price. To date, the campaign has raised over $ 13.7 million to reach its goal through contributions from private foundations, local businesses, area municipalities and private donations from community members.

To help lead the campaign, the library recruited Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, founders of Dansko, as well as Paul Redman, President and CEO of Longwood Gardens, to serve as honorary campaign co-chairs.

The campaign is planning several special events in the coming months, including a private dinner at Longwood Gardens on March 15 which will include a private fountain show; a concert at Longwood Gardens scheduled for April 7 (artist has yet to be determined); a “Next Generation” party on a family farm in May; and a wine tasting in June. Townsend said he was confident these events would generate more than $ 6 million.

“And there’s also the Melton Terrace,” Townsend added. “Greg and Caroline Bentley gave the gift of leadership, as did Dennis’ twin brother Dale Melton. Dennis and I, along with Nancy Mohr, Michael Walker, Tom Swett and many more, have championed this new library for 20 years. It is so fitting that the board of directors chose to name the upstairs terrace in his honor. He touched a lot of people and cared deeply for this community.

“There will be a lot of opportunities for people to hear our story,” he said. “Ultimately our donor wall will be a list of people, mostly from southern Chester County, who have been generous enough to look after others – people like Jeff and Carol Yetter, Michael and Nancy Pia. , Ann and Steve Hutton, Julie Noolan, Meredith and Mike Rotko and the list goes on.

“Ask a friend, tell a friend – everyone has to be a part of this project.”

Naming opportunities

Another part of the fundraising campaign was to offer donors the possibility of assigning naming rights to several rooms and spaces of the new library. While some areas have already been committed, several still remain, from including his name in the Kennett Library & (Name) Resource Center ($ 5 million) to securing naming rights for the auditorium (3 million dollars) upon receipt of a tote bag with the words “I helped bbuild the Kennett Library ”($ 250).

“The construction of this library is huge, and aside from the expansion of Longwood Garden, it is the largest project underway in County Chester,” Townsend said. “During COVID, the library proved to be a vital part of our community. There are people who have been very successful in this world and who should reinvest in their community. Almost everyone I meet, from 2 to 90 years old, has a wonderful library story to tell.

When the Kennett Library & Resource Center opens in spring 2023, Manna knows that he and his sStaff will be responsible not only for leading the operations of a 33,000 square foot facility, but also for redefining the role of a modern library for the communities it serves. It is a philosophy he applies that has its roots in the mission of the Harwood Institute, which is to teach organizations that their primary responsibility is to turn their attention “outward” to what members do. of the community need. “A lot of people still see libraries as if it was 1895 because that’s where we’ve been as a profession for so many, many years,” he said. “We – the librarians – did not take the necessary steps and continued to lock ourselves in instead of thinking outward.

“In reality, however, the future outlook for libraries is quite the opposite of our history. We have to get out of our building, go to schools and playgrounds and neighborhoods, and ask people what they need help for, and develop this new library according to those needs.

“As libraries reshape, we must and will reverse this relationship of what they stood for, and this new library builds that around the changing needs of this community. “

To learn more about the fundraising campaign to build the Kennett Library and Resource Center and to donate at various levels, visit or email Mary Hutchins at
[email protected].

To contact Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Gaw, send an email
[email protected]


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