Monday, December 15, 2008

The Last Hurrah... A Library Dream Unfulfilled

It had been the aspiration of the then-President of the Lancaster Public Libraries, Karen Haley Field, and her husband and the project manager, Robert Edwin Field, that a fully renovated and expanded Lancaster Public Library on Duke Street would be in large part a gift of both their combined efforts and a major grant.

The proposed layout of the expanded first and second floors, the current basement, and the elevation of the rear entryway can be viewed in PDF through those links.

A grant that was to be at least $2.5 million that had reportedly been assured by Senator Gibson Armstrong never arrived and presumably ended up as a last minute addition to Convention Center funding to cover cost overruns. Therefore Karen and Robert Field proposed that the project be divided into a first stage of renovation to be followed at some future date with a second stage of expansion.

In November, the renovation portion of the envisioned project was unexpectedly and indefinitely postponed by the Board of Trustees, despite $600,000 in expenditures (in part funded by the couple), the availability of a million dollars in state and matching grant money, and a $3 million endowment fund that could have made a temporary loan, without any attempt to raise the balance of $1.3 million despite a feasibility report indicating its availability.

This has been a sad experience for the couple and a tragedy for the community. It is unlikely that the region will have a competent, vibrant group of libraries until the current virtual fiefdoms, fragmented into sixteen, plus a misguided System are merged into an authority and led by a single board of trustees consisting of experienced and proven community leaders.