During the last Lower Providence Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting, the supervisors, as well as the public, were brought up to speed on the happenings and improvements at the Lower Providence Community Library.
After suffering a few years’ worth of state cuts in funding, the township’s supervisors stepped up to the plate and provided additional funds to the organization.
The library’s director, Lynn Burkholder, presented the update during Thursday night’s meeting.
“I wanted to give a brief update on how we have been utilizing the increased funding you granted to us this year,” said Burkholder.
Last year, the library ended the 2013 financial season operating $16,000 below the state-required levels for funding, and was suffering from large cuts from the Commonwealth.
“Our library staff wages were some of lowest in the county,” said Burkholder. “We gave no raises for three years, and saw an increased turnover in library staff.”
Wanting to have a good handle on the needs of those in and around Lower Providence Township, the library commissioned a survey of its users last fall. The results of the survey helped library staff to form a strategic plan for the coming five years.
“We would not be able to meet the expectations of community for the expected library service or pay our staff a fair wage if we didn’t have an increase from the township,” said Burkholder. “Thank you for the increase you granted us, and made us possible to do that.”
The director said she was there to answer the real question: “What have we been doing with your money?”
The library began with its staff.
“We increased staff wages so that we match the average for libraries across the county,” she said. “And, we have enough funding for flexibility to make another adjust should minimum wage increases go through. We also planned for modest salary increases in coming years and to absorb increased costs of employee healthcare.”
Additionally, the library was able to expand its staffing, to permit a new role.
“We’ve increased our level of professional staffing by reconfiguring staff hours, added few hours, and hired a part-time reference and adult services librarian,” said Burkholder. “This is a new position, and we’ve established a reference and information desk on library floor, which we have staffed full-time with the new person and existing professional librarians.”
The library also decided to use funding to add to the library’s collection of lending materials.
“We’ve increased our library materials budget by $10,000, over previous 2013 levels,” said Burkholder. Included in the new expansion were new museum family passes, which can be checked out for three days and return. Thus far they include Elmwood Park zoo, Morris Arboretum, and three Philadelphia area museums.
“They have been wildly popular,” said Burkholder. “They come in and go right back out again.”
Additional spending for the library also allowed for:
· A new website, set to release this fall
· Replacement of three public computers, with touch-screens
· Added fourth public computer station
· Purchase of iPads for children and adult library use
· Restroom renovations
according to the director.
The library will also soon be commissioning an architect to help the staff redesign the current structure of the library for more uses to “better serve the community.” New features are said to include more quiet space for reading and studying, enclosed collaborative spaces for meetings or tutor/pupil work, and a more defined space for teens.
“We want to also look for a new arrangement for public computers, for more elbow room and work space around them,” said Burkholder., who also hopes to “reconfigure the service desk” to incorporate the new reference section and create one point-of-service.
Lastly, the architect is said to be considering options to include an often asked for “cyber café” and coffee bar.
“We get a lot of requests for a cyber café coffee bar, she said. “We are going to look for a space for a self-serve coffee area, with a vending machine, so guests to the library can sit with a snack, use wi-fi hotspot, read newspaper, study, whatever. Some people stay several hours at the library, and it is something they’ve been asking for for a while.”
Plans for any changes will be made in phases, so that the library may take on the renovations as funding allows.
Township Supervisor Patrick Duffy was grateful for the update from Burkholder.
“Thank you on behalf of the board of supervisors for all the services your library provides,” said Duffy, noting the nonconventional ways Lower Providence has come to rely on its facility. “Back in February, when we had those horrendous ice storms, the library opened its doors and became a refuge for people to come, to get warm, eat there, plug in a phone, whatever was needed. Thank you for the wonderful work you do.”