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Library partnership helps better programs, cut costs

Samson X Horne
| Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Two years ago, the boards of trustees at the Bridgeville Public Library and South Fayette Township Library entered a partnership geared toward cutting administrative costs and allotting more money for services benefiting the public.

Since then, leadership at the libraries has not only made changes that helped cut costs, they have improved programming. With the hire of Cheryl Napsha in 2014 to lead both facilities, the cost of management alone fell by about $30,000.

“It's a unique opportunity — the chance to create a new paradigm of cooperation. The process of streamlining services fascinates me,” Napsha said.

Fresh off completing her first year as director of both libraries, Napsha has made it her mission to improve the libraries by hiring people specific to each's needs.

“The thing I'm best at is hiring,” Napsha said.

One of her key hires was Ben Hornfeck to manage the Bridgeville library on McMillen Street, whose financial struggles initiated the merger.

He brought changes that include extended hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, movie screenings and yoga classes.

Tracy Evans, a mother of two, moved to South Fayette from Erie five years ago, and is a member of both libraries.

During the summer, she takes her girls, ages 11 and 12, to Summer Bridge, a program that gives students a workbook that reviews last year's coursework while previewing next year's.

“It keeps them busy,” she said.

Annual circulation at the Bridgeville Library remains modestly constant at about 65,000, while South Fayette's is steadily growing, up 33 percent to 108,617 items in 2013.

“The pace is just more leisurely in Bridgeville,” said Napsha.

Though the staff at the libraries alternate programming between the two facilities, the space at Bridgeville is better equipped as South Fayette shares a space with the municipality building.

Bridgeville has a dedicated program room and a large group space available that encourages shared programming between the libraries.

“Hopefully, that will bring our numbers up,” said Becky Wisbon, president of the Bridgeville board.

South Fayette township is growing, and the library's attendance, membership and circulation reflects, and exceeds, that, Napsha said.

“People are coming into the community, drawn from high ratings of South Fayette School District. ... A good public library goes hand-in-hand with the school district.”

Samson X Horne is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media. He can be reached at samson.x.horne@gmail.com.

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