Talk of building a new library in Smyrna is nothing new. While most people wouldn't disagree the number of users has outgrown the capacity of the Smyrna Public Library, the question has always been how the town would pay to operate a bigger facility.

Members of the Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library, formerly known as the Smyrna Public Library Guild, knew funding the operational budget would be an issue so they embarked on a project with the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware. The results of the study were released June 27 at the annual meeting for Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library.

Friends group co-president Mary Turner said the group is pleased the state cooperated with them in making the study happen.

"It'll be useful for every library in the state because it's so thorough and includes research from others states to compare and contrast each other," Turner said.

Proving a point

The results of the study verified what guild members and town officials knew all along – the town couldn't afford to pay the operational costs to run the library, said Friends group co-president Jonette Oldham.

"It validated much of what we've been trudging on for a few years," Oldham said.

Numbers used in the study are from 2011. The Town of Smyrna allocated $253,677 to the Smyrna Public Library in their 2011 budget; the town allocated roughly $315,000 in 2013. The Friends group had previously developed a proposed operating budget of $629,000, which aligns with other libraries in the state. Using the funds allocated to the library in 2013, the town would need to come up with $314,000 to fund the operational budget.

The governance study suggests making up the difference with contributions from New Castle County, Kent County, the state, and community support. For the Friends group, having other areas contribute makes sense.

"It's only fair for the people that use it [the library] should be paying for it," Oldham said.

Another big question answered with the study was how the library should be governed.

The study recommends a nine-member board with members from all parties involved; the suggestion is modeled on the board of trustees at Milford Public Library, which is similar to Smyrna in that the library provides services to two counties.

Moving forward

Smyrna Town Council members passed a resolution at the July 1 council meeting to take the lead in the project to build a bigger library in Smyrna.

Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten said the town and the guild will now work together.

Masten pointed out the study states 20 percent of the students in the Smyrna School District live in New Castle County so the group needs to talk with New Castle County Council members as well as state officials.

"We're going to need help with operating [costs]," Masten said. "The governance study said we're shy 'X' amount to run a library, but when we open on day one we're not going to be operating the full 25,000-square foot library with 'X' number of people working. We'll grow over time."

Smyrna Vice Mayor Regina Brown said the governance study is important to the overall project but at this time they don't know how big of a part it'll play.

For Smyrna Public Library director Beverly Hirt, she's just happy the town is taking the lead on building a bigger facility.

"It's the best thing that could've happened to the town," Hirt said.

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