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Library reopening pushed back

| Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 12:32 a.m.

Reopening has been delayed for the West Newton Library, which will now be led by an independent board.

Aaron Nelson, a new board member, said cooperation from the borough, the former library board under the West Newton Woman's Club and Westmoreland Library Network is necessary to move plans forward.

“It's kind of like we're going around in circles right now, waiting for these pieces to pop into place,” he said.

The library closed on May 30. The Woman's Club had operated it since 1939.

Borough council decided to have utilities shut off at the 124 N. Water St. building, which has housed the library since 1980. The locks will be changed.

The board is working with the borough's accountants to obtain a tax-exempt, or 501(c)3, designation, Nelson said.

“We can't even really fund-raise to help with the building until we get that 501(c)3 in,” he said.

The new board is formulating an action plan to raise money, Nelson said.

Building inspector Mike Stack reviewed the structure Thursday and plans to issue a report to council, said Councilman Chris Luikart.

New library board President Cheryl Russell, Secretary Marlene Yurkovich and a few of the new board members attended last week's borough council meeting.

Representatives from both boards and interim library network Director Nancy Gresko discussed it a council work session, said former library board President Alma “Sis” Brozak.

The Woman's Club wants the network to approve the action plan before transferring any legal documents to the new board.

“It's up to them. We're done, we told them we're done,” Brozak said. “ ... We're willing to work with them, but they need to be approved (by the network).”

In April, the Woman's Club announced that it would no longer run the library and agreed to transfer the library's nonprofit status.

Luikart said those plans changed, so now the new group has to seek tax-exempt status under a new organization name.

Nelson said the 2011 budget provided by the Woman's Club set monthly expenses at about $2,000. That could be trimmed by $500 if new book acquisitions are cut.

“Basically if we don't get (network) approval, all this is down there is going to be a reading room. It cannot function as a normal library without their backing,” he said.

The network will use the budget plan to ensure its resources will be properly used and the organization is sustainable, Nelson said.

Gresko said the network board must approve the six-month plan for the library to join the network.

“They can open at any point in time, they can just be a library independent of us,” she said.

Network computer software, a library barcode card scanner and a credit card machine were returned to the network, Luikart said.

It would be difficult for the library to have to revert to hand-stamped cards and a separate user database and then switch back to the computer system if accepted to the network, he said.

“We're not going to revamp the system and turn around and do it again ... but we're going to do it right, if it takes three or four months, it takes three or four months,” Luikart said.

Council members may call a special meeting to approve the plan once word is received on the tax status.

Russell said the library's summer reading program, which attracted an average of 50 children each week, is a testament to its continued relevance.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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