Site may have
for a new Claymont library
advocating construction of a new public library in
Claymont have expressed a strong preference for having it located in Darley Green.
general manager of the county Department of Community Services,
said that Commonwealth Group, developer of the large mixed-uses
community which has been known until now as Renaissance Village, has offered to
donate land for a library. But she cautioned that that is not a
firm commitment, but an oral offer to provide a site along the planned extension of Manor Avenue
which is to be the entrance from Philadelphia Pike.
referred to the county administration's decision not to finance
any capital projects already in its building program during the
coming fiscal year. In light of county government's fiscal
situation the administration would less likely be amenable to
adding any new projects to the list. "We're going through very
tight times. ... We're cutting things, not adding them," she
Nevertheless, she called
completion of a state-financed 'needs assessment' "a good first
step" toward eventually reaching the Friends of the Claymont
Library's goal of replacing the existing library in the Claymont
Community Center building on Green Street. The present facility
is and the proposed new one would be a branch of the county
At a meeting held under the aegis
of the Friends organization, Pamela Babuca, project manager for
Studio Jaed, which conducted the assessment, said the new
facility should contain about 15,000 square feet of floor space,
more than double the 7,195 square feet in the present one.
Nelson, Jaed's building program architect, said the new
facility would cost $6.9 million. Calculated by using national
averages, he said that figure includes construction costs but
pointedly does not include site acquisition nor allow for likely
escalation of building and other costs between now and the time
the project gets under way.
The costs summary he presented
allocated $125,000 in a line labeled library software, security,
audio-visual, books and other media.
Bubuca said priorities for a new
facility included community meeting space, computer
workstations, energy-conservation features, noise control,
security and "a park-like atmosphere."
Nelson said it would be
"technologically advanced" and "in accordance with high-density
Farley said it would take at
least five years for design and other preparatory work once a
library is included in the county's capital program -- a step
that could not occur for at least another year. Already in the
program, she said, is a new library to replace the one in
Middletown. She did not indicate whether that project would
represent direct competition for county government financing.
Financing a new Claymont library,
she said, would have to be a joint venture using state, county
and private money from foundations and individuals. Money is
tight in all those places now. The Longwood and Welfare
Foundations, for example, are now making grants in the $5
million range, down from their 'normal' $14 million range.
Farley said Friends groups raised
$1 million for the Woodlawn branch, $935,000 for the branch on
Kirkwood Highway, and $900,000 for the one in Hockessin. She was
not specific about how much the Claymont organization would have
to raise to make that project viable if Nelson's cost estimate
In response to questions from
attenders at the meeting, she discounted the likelihood of the
federal economic stimulus package or possible future federal
infusions into the economy providing any money for the project.
Farley said she would be
personally opposed to requiring county residents to pay an
annual fee to use libraries, as is done in some other
jurisdictions. But she said out-of-state residents already pay
$25 a year to use county libraries and that is proposed to be
increased to $35 in the coming fiscal year. Both Claymont and
Hockessin draw a measurable amount of patronage from nearby
Babuca said the "overwhelming
preference" for a Darley Green location was based on a weighted
scoring of several criteria evaluated by participants during a
tour of possible sites in December. Darley Green scored highest
in eight of 15categories, including three of the four
highest-weighted ones. Since the tour, an original offer to have
the library occupy the ground floor of a four-story condominium
along Philadelphia Pike was changed to substitute a library for
a planned 'community center' on Manor Avenue halfway between the
pike and Green Street.
A somewhat distant runner-up was
the now unused site of the former Childrens Home on Green
Street, which is owned by the Catholic diocese. That, she said,
had the disadvantage of including several buildings that would
have to be torn down. Woodshaven-Kruse Park, which is a county
park, scored highest in two categories, but drew objections from
tour participants who favored "keeping the park as a park" The
empty Holy Rosary school building and the historic Grubb
mansion, which is also on the Holy Rosary campus, received
consideration but did not score first in any of the categories.
Expanding the present facility
"was removed from the list" after finding favor with no one on
the tour, Babuca said.
Farley said 15 people took the
tour. They were invited to do so from a list of civic activists
and others deemed to be interested in the project supplied by
the Claymont Friends. "We sent out a lot of invitations," she
said. Most of the 19 attenders at the Mar. 31 meeting appeared
to have taken the tour.
Although the meeting was billed
as the occasion for presenting both a 'needs assessment' and a
site analysis, neither the Jaed Power-Point presentation nor an
'executive summary' distributed at the conclusion of the meeting
-- which was not materially different from the presentation --
contained any data illustrating a need for a new library.
Keelin Fry, treasurer of the
Claymont Friends, told Delaforum after the meeting that the
present facility "is clearly undersize for a community this
big." He said it is deficient "in size, design and location."
Babuca was vague when asked after
the meeting if the 'executive summary' was part of a more
comprehensive report relating information such as current and
projected patronage, circulation data and available amenities to
the size of the present facility and the scope of services it
provides. No such document was available at or referred to
during the meeting. She did say such matters "had been covered"
at a meeting held last November. She offered to send an
electronic copy of notes from that meeting, but no such e.mail
had been received before this article was prepared.