Besore association turns down offer

PAT FRIDGEN
The Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library will stay where it is after action last week by the board that administers the facility.

The public library is going to stay put at 305 E. Baltimore Street.

Citing lack of community support to merge with a new Greencastle-Antrim secondary schools library, the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library Association decided to decline an offer by the school district. Aware that the library was facing financial difficulties, Supt. C. Gregory Hoover had suggested last February that Besore consider sharing facilities with the schools when they are remodeled in 2010. In September he said no action had taken place and the association needed to indicate its wishes because the school district was moving ahead on construction plans with a formal presentation to the school board in November, followed by public input in January.

In a poll taken by the Echo Pilot, respondents overwhelmingly opposed merging the facilities, fearing Besore would lose its identity, programs would suffer, security measures would hamper access, and there were too many unknowns.

Considering the offer

Association president Kay Witmer said her group met Oct. 1 and realized putting the two libraries together was complex and details couldn't be finalized in the tight timeline, all secondary to the desires of the citizens to maintain Besore at its present location.

"It would have taken a lot of hard work," she said. "Many people care about Besore. They use it and share its values."

She notified Hoover before releasing the news to the public. Hoover acknowledged receiving the letter. "I understand their concerns. It would have been neat to explore though."

Besore director Laura Greenlee was pleased with the decision. "It was a nice offer, but the patrons want it here. I know my staff loves this library and the town. I hope we can continue and expand services to the community."

Sharon Baumbaugh, president of the volunteer organization Friends of the Library, was also happy.

“The offer was made in good faith and the association was only trying to do what they thought was in the best interest of the community. I’m very glad it worked out the way it has,” said Baumbaugh.

The Friends had advocated maintaining autonomy for Besore.

The future

The association will focus on improvements to the building, most notably the electrical system and parking, said Witmer. Her panel has the architectural drawings it commissioned two years ago, but building plans were put on hold because of the economy. Among the features it included were a main entrance where the parking lot is now, with an elevator to make the facility ADA compliant. That last issue is what spurred the association to begin seeking modernizing the 45-year-old building.

"We have many needs," Witmer said, "but we hesitate to start a capital campaign. With the economy down and people still getting laid off, it's hard to ask people for money now. We're a conservative bunch and we don't want to be in debt."

They are looking for funding sources, but Besore doesn't qualify for the Keystone grant commonly given to libraries, because the association owns the building.

She knows many upgrades are needed. The boiler is original and the children's wing in the basement does not have water. "People expect these things."

For the present, the library can continue as is, but the trust fund established by Calvin Besore in memory of his mother is way down. "Are we OK?" Witmer repeated a question. "Yeah, but you can only be OK for so long."

Greenlee was appreciative of past support by community organizations, such as Rotary, Lions and Lionesses, "but our need is greater than what they can do. Besore is a wonderful place. It needs work; we know that."