Letter: The Hellertown Area Library Needs Your Help

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Editor’s Note: To learn more about the issues addressed in this letter, click here.

Dear Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township residents,

As some of you know, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing restrictions pushed the Friends of the Hellertown Area Library organization into hibernation mode these past months. Large-scale fundraising, dining and outreach events were unfortunately impossible as we once facilitated them. Since we reconvened late this summer, the Friends leadership team has been brainstorming ideas on how to retool our organization and safely maximize our positive impact on the library and the community as a whole. With construction quotes and a landscaping plan in place, we intend to re-launch our Pave the Way fundraising campaign in the early spring and will continue to help fund programming and capital improvements at the library for years to come.

With that said, the library is under a very real threat right now from a financial standpoint. HAL needs your help and support now more than ever.

Hellertown Library

The Hellertown Area Library is located at 409 Constitution Avenue in Hellertown, Pa. Currently the library serves residents of both Hellertown borough and Lower Saucon Township as their “home library.” (FILE PHOTO)

The Lower Saucon Township Council is currently contemplating withdrawing annual funding and support from the Hellertown Area Library, and at the time of my writing, has not approved the proposed 2022 Funding Agreement. If a Funding Agreement is not reached by February of 2022, residents of Lower Saucon Township could be left without a home library service for the foreseeable future.

Should Lower Saucon Township decide against funding a home library, even the most basic library services such as book lending would no longer be available to Lower Saucon residents, even through PA State Library Access cards.

The Hellertown Area Library remains more affordable via per-capita cost to the taxpayer than the Bethlehem Area Public Library, is the closest library facility geographically and offers a myriad of services and programming unavailable at other library venues. Our library also stayed open during the pandemic and maintained lending services when other area libraries shut their doors to their communities.

It is fair to say that permanent loss of funding from Lower Saucon Township would devastate the library’s ability to operate and maintain the current level of staff and programming we have grown to depend upon and enjoy these past years. In this time of uncertainty, library services such as free internet access, children’s story time and senior programming have provided a bulwark against unemployment, childhood learning loss and social isolation.

The Hellertown Area Library will simply not be the same without the financial support of Lower Saucon, and residents who live outside the borders of Hellertown will be barred from participating in and receiving most, if not all, library programs and services. Not only will this change the face of the library, but it will also have severe effects on the community as a whole. The library has grown into a crucial hub of learning, technology, culture, and with the adjacent Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market, even commerce, in our area. We don’t want our Lower Saucon neighbors to lose access to it.

At this critical moment, we are reaching out to you and yours to help out HAL!

What you can do to help:

1) Talk to library staff, learn more about the issue and spread the word to your neighbors in and outside the township. The more people who know what the situation is, the better chance we have of remaining funded. We need a grassroots effort and voices from all over the community to fight this!

2) Attend the next Lower Saucon Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. and all subsequent meetings where the library will be an agenda item. Residents of both Lower Saucon Township and Hellertown borough should also note that a new public comment policy–adopted by council on Jan. 3–will be in effect at Lower Saucon Council meetings as of the Jan. 19 meeting. Under the new policy, only township residents may address council during two periods reserved for public comment during the meeting.

3) Contact your township council members and insist on their continued support for the library. Their email addresses can be found on the Lower Saucon Township website.

4) Attend FotHAL Leadership Team meetings and become more involved with the volunteer side of things. All residents of Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township are invited to join the Friends of the Library as well as participate in our Leadership Team meetings. We are currently mobilizing a large organized response and are convening an emergency meeting this coming Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the library. Our Leadership Team is always looking for new members and could use a hand!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to myself or the Hellertown Area Library Director, Noelle Kramer (director@hellertownlibrary.org). We remain grateful for your continued support and participation in our community library.  

Sincerely,

Larry O’Donnell
President – Friends of the Hellertown Area Library
friendsofthehellertownlibrary@gmail.com
Friends of the Hellertown Area Library Facebook page

Editor’s Note: Letters to the editor and opinion-editorials should be about local topics of general interest and may be emailed to josh@sauconsource.com for consideration.

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