Groundbreaking held for new Downingtown library

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$1 million still needs to be raised to complete project

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Downingtown Library Board President Deborah Miles (left) and State Sen. Andy Dinniman — along with the help of some youthful library patrons — celebrate the groundbreaking for the new library building, Tuesday.

DOWNINGTOWN — A dream many years in the making is about to become a reality, as various county, state, school district and borough officials, and dozens of local citizens gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new library building, Tuesday.

The new library is slated to move into an old Downingtown Area School District administration building adjacent to Kerr Park, which will replace the existing 200-plus-year-old Lancaster Avenue library building that has been its home for a century. The new building, which is currently in the process of being gutted, will offer some 7,000 square feet — and crucially, some 33 parking spaces, as opposed to nine at the old building.

“It seems like a miracle,” enthused Deborah Miles, the library board’s president, in describing some of the amazing new features the building will offer to local residents, including 10 computer terminals, free WiFi and various rooms for community groups to meet in.

But as the work of finding a new home is now complete, a bigger job remains: a $1 million capital campaign to pay for the nearly half of the $2.2 million project that has not been raised through grants and other donations.

Miles singled out State Sen. Andy Dinniman for his support of the project and help in shepherding a $550,000 state grant — one of three similar library grants he’s worked on in the county, including Spring City and Phoenixville.

Dinniman, a former county commissioner, noted that he had long been a supporter of finding a new home for the library. He said that the threatening, muggy weather was perfect weather to celebrate the formal start of work on the library.

“It’s the start of a nice day, a rainy day,” he said. “What better day to curl up with a nice book?”

Mayor Josh Maxwell spoke about how the library had impacted him growing up, as a place where he could walk to as a youth, learn and dream of a better future. But he said he also saw it as a cornerstone to the continuing revitalization of the downtown area.

“It’s incredibly important to have a library like this,” he said. “”We want to have vibrant public spaces.”

Libraries, said County Commissioner, Ryan Costello are part of the American tradition of “equality of opportunity” where anyone can read, learn and better themselves. Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said “she was so impressed with all the people here to support the library” to a room filled with residents excited by the prospect of a new library.

Commissioner Terence Farrell, recently back from China, noted the difference that libraries make here, as opposed to there. “So many things are available for people, no matter your status.” He spoke about how in China, only those who pass rigorous tests are allowed to go onto college, while here, people can fail, get back up and through hard work and study at places such as libraries, work toward degrees and a new and better life.

Although work is under way, raising the final funds to pay for the project remains a hurdle for the library board — with about $1 million needed to complete the project. Although everyone attending the event Tuesday was given an envelope with details on how to support the fundraising campaign, donations can also be made on the Web at:

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