Tamaqua Library looks to relocate
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Eric Zizelmann, financial secretary of the Tamaqua Public Library's board of directors, served as master of ceremonies for the library's 75th Anniversary celebration.
On an evening when the Tamaqua Public Library's 75th anniversary was celebrated, plans were announced that will impact its future.
Arthur Connely, president of the library's board of directors, said Wednesday evening the board is looking to move from its current site at 30 South Railroad St.
"It is time to relocate, rebuild or both," said Connely during the anniversary program at the library, which was held in conjunction with an evening mixer of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce.
The library, which was established during the Great Depression in 1934 in Tamaqua's Masonic Building at Nescopec and West Broad Streets, has moved a number of times during its existence.
In 1943, it moved to the rear of the then Meredith's Stationary Store on West Rowe Street, then 10 years later was relocated on the second floor over the former Johnson's Radio and Television Store at 111 East Broad St.
Due to its increasingly growing collection, the library moved again in 1957, to 114 West Broad St., next to what was the Miners National Bank, a building that now houses the Tamaqua Area Chamber.
In 1969, the library's board of trustees obtained the property at the current South Railroad Street location from the George Kolb estate for $18,500, and in 1972, the new structure was completed and the library shifted into its present home.
Connely said the board has no specific plans in mind for a new location.
"We want to be financially ready in five years," Connely stated, noting that there is currently $40,000 in the building fund but that the move would have to be accomplished outside of the library's regular operations budget. "We can meet operating expenses, but this is above and beyond," he added.
Connely gave a number of reasons for the decision to relocate. One is that the library has outgrown its current 7,500-square-foot confines.
"Space-wise, we are bulging at the seams," he related, explaining that the library's collection is taking over more room than ever.
The library is also fighting a battle against the Wabash Creek, which flows underneath it and is dealing with a mold problem, a leaky roof, structural damage and an antiquated electrical system that is challenged by the advances in today's technological equipment.
Connely called on the assistance of businesses, patrons, donors, service organizations and the community in assisting the library with making the move when it is ready, especially since grant funding for public libraries from the commonwealth has been cut.
Gayle Heath, library director, explained that state subsidies had accounted for about one-third of the library's operations budget (about $47,229 of the library's 2008 budget of $160,850), but that the cutbacks by Harrisburg have dropped that share to about one-fourth of the budget.
Heath made a reference to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, who clicked her heels and wished when she wanted to go home.
"Wishful thinking cannot replace proactive action," she said.
The evening, which included a woodwind ensemble performance by music students of Judy Schmaldienst, included a number of testimonials to the value of the library to the Tamaqua area community.
"We dispense information and allow for the morphing of this information into knowledge," said Eric Zizelmann, the library board's financial secretary and chairman of the 75th anniversary committee, who served as master of ceremonies. "It is nothing less than the DNA of democracy.
"Whatever the cost of administering public libraries, it is cheap compared to an ignorant democracy," he added.
Frank Genther, a member who lives outside of the library's regular service area, said, "The books in the library are an escape for me from the troubles of the world, even for a few minutes."
Genther added that today's authors weave a lot of technological and historical facts into their novels.
"You learn from books," he mentioned.
Lynn Richardson, who first brought her nephew to the library for Storytime and has been a member since 2006, said, "The love of reading and the allure of books is the greatest gift you can give any child."
Richardson explained that for some youngsters, the library is their one exposure to the joys of reading.
David Starry, a senior student at Kutztown University, noted that the library is a source for forming new ideas and points of view and said it helps fuel his passion for reading history.
Liz Pinkey, a TIMES NEWS correspondent and mother of two, said she had her library card before she got her driver's license. As a book addict, she intends to pass her passion for reading onto her sons, with the library as a prime source.
"Living in this community, it comes at no cost to us," said Pinkey. "It has had an incredible influence on me both as a reader and writer."
Heath mentioned the many services available at the library, including loaning books, audio books, music and videos to public access of computers; copy and fax service; programs for children, adults and families; a book discussion group; Access PA interlibrary loans; proctoring for placement and online examinations; a microfilm reader and collection of Tamaqua Evening Courier and TIMES NEWS; partnering with agencies such as PPL's Kill-a-Watt program; genealogical information and hosting the Black Diamond Writers Network.
Citations were presented to the library in honor of its 75th Anniversary from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate.