Pa. library has long history, uncertain future

May 31, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The $3.5 million Grove Family Library opened earlier this year and now the Franklin County Library System is looking at another major project - renovating or replacing the aging Coyle Free Library at 102 N. Main St.

"The building of the Grove Family Library was a step in the greater strategic plan," said Bernice Crouse, the system's executive director. "The next step is to do something about Coyle."

Coyle Library is holding what is billed as a grand reopening Thursday during Franklin County Public Library Week, but Crouse says the building has serious space and deterioration problems.

Originally a post office, Coyle is more than a century old with aging plumbing and electrical systems. While the heating and air-conditioning systems are relatively new and the roof was replaced a few years ago, it needs either a major renovation or a new location, Crouse said.


One problem is interior downspouting in the roof and inside the walls. Some of the old cast iron pipes have failed in the past, resulting in leaks through the ceiling or walls, including a wall in Crouse's former second-floor office, she said.

The masonry beneath the eaves is deteriorating and the library has yet to find a contractor to make the repairs, she said.

"It's a wonderful location," but it is landlocked for expansion, Crouse said. A sewer line through the parking lot prevents expansion to the north, while King Street Elementary School is to the east.

The school is scheduled to close in a few years, but there is no guarantee the library will be able to buy the land, Crouse said. "There are several entities that would like to get a hold of that property," she said.

Other properties have been looked at downtown, but the library is not in a financial position to buy at this point and the board of directors wants the Grove Library paid off before borrowing more money, she said.

About $800,000 is still owed on the new library. No federal or state funds were used in its construction, she said. A donation and bequest totaling $1.5 million from the late Cora I. Grove and about $1 million in in-kind contributions from Guilford and Greene townships, contractors and volunteers paid for much of the work.

The old Ragged Edge Library replaced by the Grove Library also remains on the market at about $300,000, Crouse said.

"Maybe there's somebody out there like Cora who loves Coyle," Crouse said. Revamping or replacing Coyle is a project that could cost $5 million to $8 million and take up to 10 years to accomplish, she said.

Selling Coyle would not put a big dent in that figure. It was recently appraised at about $700,000, a figure Crouse called "disheartening."

Library officials were to meet this morning with state legislators and county commissioners to outline the system's long-term plans, she said.

There have been changes at Coyle because of the Grove Library, said Todd Reynolds, the library's director. The second floor will now be open to the public because the library system's offices moved to the Grove Library, he said.

Large print and audio books, books for sale and circulating paperbacks are now upstairs, along with the library's genealogy collection. Moving those upstairs freed first-floor space for a teen area and more room for a Spanish collection to serve that growing part of the population, he said.

Shelving for the upstairs was salvaged from Ragged Edge while the paint was left over from the Grove project, Reynolds said.

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