Selbyville librarylooking at $3.68M in state building funds

It’s a picturesque, historically-significant building, but how long can the Selbyville Public Library operate from a house that wasn’t designed to be a 21st-century public library?

The library has passed its first hurdle toward getting major expansion money from the State of Delaware. They could receive $3.68 million from the General Assembly in next summer’s bond bill for the 2020 fiscal year.

There are still a lot of unknowns, but the library could be looking at 14,000 square feet of new construction next to the existing historic 5,600-square-foot house.

The state money would require a match. So, the library will chip in another $3.68 million for new construction (not renovations), plus another $500,000 for furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

“That’s just for the new building. We are going to have to do something with the Townsend building,” director Kelly Kline said of the 1905 house of John G. Townsend Jr., who served as a Delaware governor and U.S. senator.

The house was donated after his death in 1964. All library operations are currently limited to the first floor (as the second and third floors are aging), which means very limited space for shelves, computers, tables, reading space and all other library functions.

“One of our biggest problems that we have is with accessibility, because it’s such an old building. It’s really tough for someone who has some limitation with movement,” Kline said.

“Right now, our largest programming space holds 35 people, and that’s a really tight squeeze,” said Kline, who also envisions private study rooms for students, increased parking and attractive green space.

Most importantly, she said, everyone just wants to create a good space for the community.

The board members “are energetic about getting the project moving again,” she added. “We have to do something. We are at a crossroads. It’s never going to be at a better time.”

That means a new structure. Their goal is a “functional separation” between any new construction and the existing building. That could mean anything, including a breezeway or other separation.

Designs have not been engineered. Plans are still in the conceptual phase. The library owns a half-acre of land, half of which is an empty grass lot.

They have hired the Becker Morgan Group to assist with the overhaul, now working toward a design, having completed a public survey and needs assessment.

“It looked at what the library has, what the growing population will require as the town of Selbyville continues to grow — which it’s quite clear that it has, and it’s not going to stop for a while,” Kline said of the assessment.

Indeed, inside Selbyville town limits there are several housing developments under construction, besides the many others in the areas outside town limits.

The state money is not set in stone yet. Officially, the Delaware Council on Libraries recognized Selbyville’s need for new construction and makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State. The request will be considered by the Delaware Office of Management & Budget (OMB) in a Nov. 18 public hearing and then, next spring, by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (Bond Committee).

“We expect it will get that far,” said Katie McDonough, administrative librarian for the Delaware Division of Libraries. “The total square footage is 14,000, so I think the council felt that would be a good investment and that will definitely improve library service in that area.”

The Selbyville Town Council were also delighted with the news, announced this week by Susan Kirsch, the new president of the library’s Board of Commissioners.

The library will hire a professional fundraiser for the capital campaign, bringing specific skills and experience to a project that will leverage more than $7 million in all. They could be looking at private fundraising, grants and anything else to raise the local library’s 50-percent share.

Anyone who would like to be considered for the position should email The library will be sending out an RFP to fundraisers and grant writers in the area.

There will be opportunities for public giving, including naming possibilities. But the public can support their local library anytime by sending a check with a “capital campaign” memo line.

“Things are moving, and the bills will start coming in,” Kline said. will also donate a portion of regular sales to Selbyville Public Library when items are purchased through the library’s AmazonSmile link (

In the midst of all this, the library will continue to serve the public and host programs for all ages. The Selbyville Public Library is located at 11 Main Street, at the intersection with McCabe Street, in Selbyville. For more information, call (302) 436-8195 or visit

By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter