Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Indiana Free Library welcomes fund drive success

by on January 23, 2014 11:00 AM

Since 2009, state financial support for public libraries has been declining.

Fortunately for the Indiana Free Library, financial backing from Indiana-area residents, organizations and businesses has been growing in the past few years. As 2013 ended, the library reached its annual fundraising goal, taking in nearly $50,000.

And there are indications that progress is being made toward resolving another critical issue for the library — agreement on a long-term lease that will keep the library in the borough-owned Community Center Building at Philadelphia and Ninth streets where it has been for 80 years.

Mary Lou Zanich, president of the Indiana Free Library board of trustees, said the annual fundraiser — a mail campaign that typically runs from April through the end of the year — is one of several distinct fundraising projects conducted by the library each year. Others include the Evening in the Stacks event and occasional book sales.

“It has been increasing,” Zanich said of local financial support for the library. “We’ve gotten more contributions from community organizations and some larger donations from individuals.”

Zanich said it takes about $340,000 each year to keep the library open, and the trustees and staff rely on donations for roughly one-third of the library’s operating budget.

In addition to state and federal support, the library also receives financial backing from White Township, the Indiana Area School District and Indiana Borough. The library receives in-kind support from the borough in the form of utilities and custodial care for the library’s space in the Community Center. And Indiana council in its 2014 budget also eliminated the $6,000 annual rent payment by the library to the borough.

The library also generates some of its revenue through nonresident fees of $25 per family for residents who live outside the Indiana Area School District.

While many users come to the Indiana Free Library for the traditional reasons of borrowing books and reading periodicals, many visitors stop in to use the library’s computers and Internet service.

“A lot of people are there to develop technology skills and do job searches” on the computers, Zanich said. One of the other most popular offerings at the library, she added, is the children’s library and its extensive children’s programming.

Zanich said the library trustees are very thankful for the generosity of the community and they also appreciate what has become a positive working relationship with borough council and staff in negotiating a renewal of the library’s lease in the Community Center.

“We’re hoping to keep the progress going,” she said.

The current lease expires at the end of 2015 and council in the past few years was hesitant to approve a long-term lease renewal because the century-old Community Center needs extensive repairs — repairs the council previously had no money to pay for.

Library trustees have repeatedly said a long-term lease is essential for the library to qualify for grants.

William Sutton, Indiana Borough manager, said Wednesday a verbal agreement has been reached on a long-term lease agreement and the proposed lease is being reviewed by solicitors for the borough and the library.

“We’re looking at maybe an automatic (lease) renewal every 10 years,” Sutton said. “We assured them (the library trustees) we want to be partners” in keeping the library where it is.

Sutton said he actually now considers a new lease a minor detail in the interactions between council and the library. Council, he said, will now turn its attention to making extensive repairs and renovations to the Community Center. Part of the money for the repairs and upgrades will come from a $500,000 state grant obtained last fall.

Sutton said council expects to soon have a report from Constellation Energy Group, or ESCo, an energy services company that has been performing an investment grade audit to develop an energy conservation plan for the borough. The audit will identify improvements that can be made to the Community Center and other borough-owned buildings to make them more energy-efficient and provide savings of perhaps 30 percent.

Sutton said council wants to see what repairs and improvements can be made to the library’s home through the ESCo recommendations before dipping into the state grant money.

The Indiana Free Library was founded in 1926 and grew out of a community reading room established in 1904. The library moved to the Community Center in 1934, where it now occupies three floors of the building.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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