SPRING CITY — It all started with a woman who was passionate about her community wanting a new library.
In 2001, Bertha Brower, who served as librarian for the Spring City Public Library from 1946 to 1980, passed away and left money to the library in her will. Brower bequested $500,000 for a new library.
“She had verbally always stated she was giving us this money to build a new library for the children of her town, meaning people, all of the townspeople were her children,” said Terry McCarthy, library board president.
Although it’s taken more than a decade, Brower’s wish is about to come true. The building, 245 Broad St., will be knocked down and a new building will be constructed in the same location. While the $1.19 million library is constructed, the library will be temporarily moved to a different location.
The land development and zoning were approved in January. Construction is expected to begin this summer and will last about a year.
Board members said no taxpayer money is being used for the project. After Brower invested the money, it was invested. Some of that was used to pay the architects working on the project, leaving $700,000. About $300,000 is needed yet for the project. McCarthy said the board is seeking grants or donations.
McCarthy said, “We’d like to keep our investment intact and use that to ensure we can operate the library ongoing after it’s built.”
Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) helped secure a $500,000 reimbursable Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for the library.
All of the money was earmarked for the rebuilding, McCarthy said.
The money must be spent and then the board has to apply to the Office of the Budget for reimbursement.
McCarthy said the board is conducting research on how to get a line of credit until “the gap in costs is reimbursed.”
The board will be applying to the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation as well as other grant- making groups.
McCarthy said when the library is reimbursed, the money can be used to pay off loans and invest for future operating costs.
Thum said the board is asking for donations from businesses and residents to help make the library “a point of pride” and a community library.
Board member Paula Thum said the operating expenses right now are $100,000 a year and they are estimated to be $125,000 with the new building.
The library’s value to the community
Library director Nicole McCourt Socha and the library board members agree that the library is vital to the community for all of the services it provides and not just the books.
The library’s circulation was 37,682 in 2012.
McCourt Socha said, “There has been an increase in circulation. There has been an increase in visits, in computer usage. Our programming since I’ve come on has doubled. That’s not me. That’s our staff’s willingness to plan the activities.”
Thum added that the library increased the amount of days it is open from what it used to be. The library used to be closed two days a week and now it’s just closed on Sundays. Saturday hours have been extended.
McCarthy and McCourt Socha said the library is a gathering place also which is why the new building will feature a community room.
McCourt Socha said, “You have work and you have home and then there’s always a third place (people come to.) Having the community room and space to spread out a little more will make it much easier for people to utilize the library as it should be.”
She said the new library will be beneficial to the community for a number of reasons.
“When we were at our zoning hearing, there were a few community members who were voicing their concerns about Spring City itself...the lack of new business, opportunities and access to things,” McCourt Socha said. “Other than increasing literacy, the library raises property values in the community. It encourages new business.”
She said the community room will allow for organizations like SCORE to present seminars for entrepreneurs, creating opportunities to revitalize the community.
The new building will also provide a larger children’s area and thanks to a grant, a designated senior space.
The journey to build the library
When the board approached the borough council about building a new library, its request was that the library should stay in Spring City, although some of its service area is in East Vincent, McCarthy said.
The board considered several locations for the library. At one time, the area near the pool was considered.
“It turns out that it was not able to be built on in the long run,” McCarthy said.
She said, “We came back to this spot and decided to look at this building,” she said. “At one point we got nervous and thought, ‘Can we really do this?’ The architects called the grant people and said, ‘I think we’re not going to do it. We can’t. We don’t have the money. We’re just going to put a small addition on the back.’”
She said the people handling the grants encouraged them to continue with a brand new library because they were so close with the project.
McCarthy said the building is an old house and isn’t salvageable.
Library board member and Spring City Councilman Mike Hays said McCarthy has worked diligently to help move the library project along.
“We don’t have a full-time project manager for this project so in addition to Terry’s full-time job and home life, she’s managing not only the fundraising side with Nicole, but also the building project,” he said.
Hays said there should be a project manager working on the plans 20 hours a week, but the budget doesn’t allow for a position like that.
Other long-term board members including Thum, Diane Skorina, Dawn Shaner and Aletha Lynch have also been vital to the process, he said.