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Penn Wynne Residents Emphasize Library Renovation's Importance

The Penn Wynne branch is presently last in line for repairs.

is sixth and last on Lower Merion's library-renovation agenda, and several supporters promoted their cause Wednesday night at the township's Library Committee meeting.

"Penn Wynne has had the third-largest circulation and we’re the smallest branch," said Nancy Isserman of the Penn Wynne Civic Association. "We’re very concerned that money will run out and we won’t get our project."

While the renovation to the Bala Cynwyd Library is next on the township’s agenda, the Board of Commissioners has not formally approved any project besides Ludington Library, and debate continues over the sequence and timing of the projects, Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig said.

Regarding the next project on the agenda, the estimated cost of the proposed Bala Cynwyd Library renovation has dropped from $7.8 million to $6.7 million, township and library officials said Wednesday, but no decision was made at the Library Committee meeting about whether or how to take the next step.

That next step would be to solicit bids for construction, but private fundraising to support the project and other library renovations is proceeding sluggishly, the president of the library foundation said. The township could opt to choose a smaller-scale renovation for an estimated $4.8 million.

After two and a half hours of discussion on other library matters, eight of 14 commissioners voted to postpone discussion of the Bala Cynwyd project, to the chagrin of committee chairman and Bala Cynwyd representative George Manos and others.

"I’m very disappointed with the outcome. I don’t think it’s fair to all the people who came out to talk about this," Manos said.

The $9.1 million renovation of Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr is still within budget but behind schedule, said Chris Steckel, director of Lower Merion libraries. Difficulties with construction issues such as refitting an elevator and placing roof drains this winter slowed the project, which is currently due to finish in June, with the library reopening in September.

Commissioners Scott Zelov and Lew Gould questioned whether the contractor should be responsible for subsidizing some of the extra costs incurred.

"These issues that caused the construction delay are design issues," Zelov said.

Added Gould: "Whether that’s a legitimate thing to spend the contingency money on is a very open question."

Steckel said $315,000 of contingency funding was built into the $9.1 million budget, and that amount has not all been used yet.

The director added that the proposed state budget would reduce by 2 percent the state funding to Lower Merion’s libraries, an amount that is typically about $200,000.

Lower Merion Library Foundation president Charlie Bloom told the committee that the foundation’s capital campaign, which focuses on getting large gifts of $10,000 or more, has raised $2.1 million of a desired $5 million, of which $1.3 million has been collected.

"I remain a cockeyed optimist," Bloom said. "I’ll be around until we get $5 million; it might just take a little bit longer."

Steckel added that the radio-frequency book-tracking security system at Ludington is outdated, which costs as much as $60,000 a year in book and media losses. She recommended a proposal for a newer RFID system that would cost about $210,000.

Commissioners also discussed whether to establish a new security system in all Lower Merion libraries, but no decision was made Wednesday night.

Clarification: This story has been edited to clarify that Penn Wynne residents sought "promotion" of the project in the sense of advocacy, not promotion up the prioritized list of township library projects.

Charles Scott March 10, 2011 at 07:45 PM
The headline of this article is misleading. No one from Penn Wynne who spoke at last night's meeting lobbied to have renovation of the Penn Wynne Library "prioritized." Speakers from Penn Wynne simply reminded the Board that the majority of the library projects still remain to be done, and that it is wise to be prudent with renovation dollars at this early point in the overall renovation project to increase the likelihood that the Board of Commissioners will be able to keep its promise to renovate all six libraries.
Tom Sunnergren March 10, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Hi Charles. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. While I didn't attend the meeting (but did write the headline), my reading of the story is that the folks speaking on Penn Wynne's behalf, while not explicitly asking to be moved up in renovation order, were pretty clearly telling the committee 1.) they still want their library renovated and 2.) are starting to feel unsure that will happen. I think the headline captures that.
Charles Scott March 11, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Perhaps we're having a "panda eats shoots and leaves" type of grammatical disagreement here. To me, your headline suggests that Penn Wyne Library patrons who spoke were advocating that renovation of the Penn Wynne Library be prioritized. That wasn't what any of them said, nor was it the impression that I got from their remarks (and I was in attendance at the meeting). What I heard is that library renovation (at Bala Cynwyd, at Ardmore, at Belmont Hills, at Gladwyne and at Penn Wynne) should be prioritized rather than further library expansion, which is a very different sentiment. Just as you wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that pandas discharge firearms and depart after meals when you mean that they eats bamboo stems and foliage, I think it's important to clarify that the concerns of the patrons of the Penn Wynne Library who spoke at last night's meeting were focused on completion of ALL of the library renovation projects, not just the Penn Wynne project.
Regina Brown March 12, 2011 at 12:37 AM
I agree with Chuck - the headline is misleading, particularly when you add the second line "Penn library is presently sixth in line for repairs." I read it that Penn Wynne wants to 'jump the line' essentially and have their needs put before those of other villages in the township. What really happened was that folks lobbied for renovation of existing structures rather than expansions. For instance, we have the near famous 'stroller parking' area of a proposed addition to Bala library while meanwhile Ardmore's library roof is leaking so badly there are huge water spots and patches of plaster damage. Given all this does it make sense to expand and embellish at the potential expense of other structures who need repairs just as badly as Bala library? That is the issue. Tom, I'm going to guess you're not from here and therefore don't realize the tensions between the communities, histories, perceptions, and such. We have enough issues without misleading headlines fanning flames. I would hope you'd have the integrity to edit this so that it is clearer what the issues raised were, especially since you weren't even at the meeting in question.
Tom Sunnergren March 12, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Thanks for taking the time to comment Regina. Our intention at Patch isn't to fan flames, but to get the story right. I'm going to speak with the reporter who filed it for clarification, and if we feel we've misstated the case, we'll change any mistakes that were made. Also, I have some sense of the tensions Regina, and I apologize if the headline seemed insensitive to them.
Eric Campbell (Editor) March 12, 2011 at 05:01 AM
Hi folks, I've clarified the story. It's clear Penn Wynne residents don't want their renovation done at the expense of other libraries' projects, and I'm sorry it came off that way. Thanks for reading, and always feel free to give feedback so we can keep these sites as accurate and helpful as possible.

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