Decision must be made on Besore

PAT FRIDGEN

The fate of the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library is unknown, and the people responsible for its existence have only a few months to decide.

Since the Greencastle-Antrim School Board Facilities Committee and members of the Besore Board met in February, no formal action has been taken on a suggestion to combine Besore with a new secondary school library.

The school district is clear that it will close the space between the middle and high schools, and put a shared cafeteria, library and classrooms in the new construction, planned for three levels. Besore Board members approached Antrim Township, the Borough of Greencastle and the school district for funds to continue to provide services and to address its aging building. The township and borough made donations. The school made an offer.

Last week the Besore Board met with Friends of the Library, a volunteer organization. Several participants later attended the Facilities Committee meeting the same evening. Besore's future was discussed.

BB president Kay Witmer told her panel, "Everyone we've talked to cares about the public library. They want one in town. We have paused on our building plans because of the economy, plus we would like $700,000 to improve this building and buy the lot next door for parking."

Her board members, Martha Coda, Bill Needy, Ed Wine, Louise Mowen, Nancy Rice and Sue Frederick, were joined by Frank Ervin, community liaison to the Franklin County Library Board, and Friends members, also Nancy Rice, Phyllis Huffman, Linda O'Mara, Sharon Baumbaugh, Sandy Kinzer, Lu McDonald, Sue Eckstine, and citizens Bud O'Mara and Marvin Rice.

Wine explained how the merge idea came into being. "We asked all three groups for money. The school replied that because of its pending 20-year renovation of the high school, maybe we could combine. That took us by surprise."

That led to the winter meeting. No talks had taken place since. Wine said any change to the current situation would have to be approved by Besore, the county library board, the school board and the courts, because of Besore's trust fund.

Nancy Rice asked that Besore put a stop to the whole idea at once. Wine preferred to explore it. "The trust portfolio has been hit hard. I'd hate to turn down a golden opportunity if the terms are right."

Bud O'Mara questioned why the concept was being entertained at all. He wanted to know how it tangibly benefited the community, how people could give their input, what the real estate tax ramifications would be.

Kinzer expressed operational concerns of the Friends. She wondered if Besore would lose its identity, how security would be handled, what would happen to the current library building, who would pay for what expenses, how popular children's and teen programs would continue, whether parking would be adequate, how the new facility would be staffed.

Ervin said it would be irresponsible not to look at options.

Friends had heard from Besore supporters who would not patronize a library in the school, nor volunteer or contribute any more funds. Nancy Rice produced a list of 42 people who opposed any move, "some adamantly."

Eckstine differentiated between the purposes of the two styles of libraries, one for education, one for unique services and programs for all ages. She believed one location would eventually identify the facility only as a school library.

Bud O'Mara recommended the public be alerted to Besore's financial need, and a capital campaign be conducted over several years. Wine agreed that if it did not relocate to school grounds, Besore would maintain the status quo and go on, but did need improvements in electrical service, parking and accessibility for the handicapped.

The school said

Facilities Committee members C. Gregory Hoover, Arnie Jansen, William Thorne and Howard Ritchey welcomed members of the Friends and the public when they met a short time later. Besore board members trickled in during the course of the meeting.

Hoover explained that the offer came as a goodwill gesture because of Besore's financial crunch. "It's easier for us not to do this. The ball is in Besore's court. Until they say 'yay' or 'nay', we're not going to do anything."

The committee had not made any plans for incorporating the public library into the school renovation plans. However, Hoover needed direction soon. The committee expected to present renovation plans to the entire school board in October or November, invite public input and then get the project rolling through state channels. By fall construction could be underway.

During the summer Berniece Crouse, Executive Director of the Franklin County Library system, told the Echo Pilot she appreciated that the school board was thinking of ways to help the library. She was uncertain if a merge could be successful. It depended on the degree of the joint venture and flexibility.

Without seeing any plans, she said, "I have no idea if it's workable. In many cases it is not, because each library has different goals."

She added that the county had a long-range plan for improvements to Besore.

Currently, the FCLS owns Coyle and Grove libraries in Chambersburg. It covers services, employee wages and phone bills for Besore, but does not pay rent. The non-profit Besore association owns the building. F&M Bank manages the trust.