Several residents of Lower Saucon Township fear that they might be getting what they paid for.
The much-contested Library Consolidation Plan with Hellertown Area Library passed three to one in the Lower Saucon Township Council during their Wednesday night meeting.
Council Member Priscilla DeLeon, an outspoken detractor of the plan, lamented the loss of Bethlehem Area Public Library’s Bookmobile, online resources and research materials. Numerous residents who addressed the board agreed with DeLeon and urged the board to vote against the plan.
“Library service we will end up with in Hellertown is no comparison, said township resident Margaret Opthof. “We will lose the bookmobile, the adult, teen and children services and the online book connection with entire Lehigh Valley. We need to be able to reserve books with Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.”
David Lloyd, a teacher in the Saucon Valley School District and a resident of Lower Saucon Township, came to the council meeting ready to argue on behalf of his two daughters.
“I love the variety and accessibility of the bookmobile,” Lloyd said. “Every week we get five to six new books. My daughter takes pride in her reading. Her having access to and her finding things she finds valuable to read are what’s important.”
The other present members of the council offered several reasons why the plan was a positive one for the township. Tom Maxfield, the vice president of the board, defended the smaller Hellertown Area Library versus the larger Bethlehem Area Public Library that serves over 100,000 residents.
“With 16,000 people, we can have a smaller library that we can tailor to our communities…Hellertown Library has good people, trained people, with the same kind of degrees, serving a much smaller population,” Maxfield said.
Maxfield further tried to assuage the public’s concerns about leaving Bethlehem Area Public Library.
“We have to think of the facilities that our future generations will use,” he said. “Large facilities won’t matter in the future. I have faith that we are going to cooperatively produce a library for two townships that will be a wonderful facility. I hope we can prove people wrong. I hope we can do something that is marvelous.”
The council’s final decision to approve the Library Consolidation Plan means that Lower Saucon Township and Hellertown, who also approved the plan, can start formulating a library contract.
Lower Saucon Township plans to move ahead with “Part A” of the consolidation plan. Part A focuses on renovating and rearranging Hellertown Area Library by relocating the children’s area, creating a computer area, infilling the second floor mezzanine for upper book stack space, creating a new reading room and installing additional main level book stacks. The approximate cost of this plan is $113,947.02. That price will lower to about $70,000 a year after these changes are made.
The specifics of the library funds will be discussed as part of the township budget at the next council meeting on October 23rd.