Alvernia President tapped to co-chair Berks County Library Task Force

img: flynnIt’s no secret… Berks County libraries are in trouble. With decreased hours and staff cuts, many area libraries are also eliminating purchases of new materials, and reducing services. In fact, even the popular book mobile program was dramatically affected last year. Officials are worried that Berks County libraries are surviving at subsistence levels without any contingency to rely on for unforeseen challenges or essential needs.

“Now is the time to act,” said Dr. Thomas F. Flynn, president of Alvernia University, who with Karen Rightmire, president of the Wyomissing Foundation, is working to make a difference in area libraries by co-chairing the Berks County Libraries Task Force. “Our county libraries are a critical community resource. We need to develop a long-term strategy to ensure we have a first-rate library system appropriate for the 21st century,” said Flynn. 

Working with an impressive group of area leaders, the pair hopes to create a comprehensive plan for a sustainable structure for libraries in Berks County, rather than create a short-term “band-aid.” During a meeting held at the Berks County Community Foundation last month, the task force formed teams and decided on a deadline of Oct. 30 to present its final report and recommendations to the community.

“The Community Foundation created the task force to develop recommendations that will ensure our local libraries are adequately funded and organized,” Rightmire said. “Libraries are key community resources that connect people to information in a variety of ways that go beyond traditional book lending. It is critical, particularly in this economy, that the libraries remain open and accessible to the community.”

Over the next several months, the task force will break into the following three teams, each with a specific focus:

Best Practices
The Best Practices Team will visit three library systems in other Pennsylvania communities to study how they operate and determine if a similar structure might be beneficial in Berks County.

Reading Public Library
The Reading Public Library Team will study the specific financial and legal issues impacting the Reading Public Library in its role as Berks County’s District Library Center and make short-term (2010-2011) recommendations and long-term recommendations for sustainability and growth.

Community Input
The Community Input team will interview individuals, civic groups, and others throughout Berks County whose input and support is currently or would be beneficial to local libraries.

The teams will regroup in late August and use what they’ve learned to develop recommendations for a comprehensive 21st century library system and provide a written report at a public meeting on Oct. 30. Updates on the teams’ progress will be posted on the Community Foundation’s website at
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