Sunday, February 1, 2009

$7.4 million for historic buildings; library fears raising $1.3

The following article was prepared in early November but, through an oversight, was never published.

In response to an inquiry from NewsLanc concerning the status of the Stevens & Smith fundraising for preservation of historic buildings adjoining the Conference Center, Gail Tomlinson reports " We have raised approximately $7.4 million to date. Most of the $4.4 million was raised here in Lancaster from individual donors. "

If funding was available for the museums, then why did the Lancaster Public Library (Downtown Lancaster), one of fourteen in the county, miss a golden opportunity to renovate and remodel when most of the funds needed were on hand?

To understand at least in part, we must direct our attention to the larger issue of why the various libraries are autonomous and dependent upon a cooperative System for certain services, a System that absorbs over half of the county and state library funding.

The common and logical approach elsewhere is for a county authority to be in charge of all libraries to promote strong community leadership, efficiency, raise funds and champion its cause.

An extensive feasibility study on behalf of the Lancaster Public Library had indicated $2.5 of likely private contributions for the renovation and expansion of the facility.

There was a $500,000 state grant and $500,000 matching grant. About $600,000 had been expended in for plans, consultation and studies. No capital campaign had been inaugurated. All that needed to be raised was $1.3 million. (The library has over $3,000,000 in its endowment fund which could have been tapped, just in case there was a shortfall.)

A library feasibility study had encountered $2.5 of likely donors for the renovation and expansion of the facility, before even asking for help from the County.

If $4.4 can be readily raised from private donors to upgrade a local museum, does it seem unlikely that $1.3 could would have been forthcoming for the beloved Public Library that serves about 1500 Lancastrians each day?

The tragic loss of both the opportunity at hand and the making use of the "shovel ready plans" to qualify for federal funding for expansion will hopefully stimulate a general recognition of the dysfunctional current arrangement and bring about a merger of libraries and System.

Then at least the blunder will have served some useful purpose.