BV Library holds open house, reintroduces Friends group

Friday, March 10, 2017
Berryville Library director Julie Hall is all smiles as she welcomes friends and visitors to the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Friday Morning ‘Coffee with the Chamber.’ The event is held at various locations around the city and last Friday was hosted by the Berryville Public Library.
Photo by David Bell/Carroll County News

The Berryville Library was filled with more than books last Friday.

Local residents lined the library walls during the open house event, which was part of the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Coffee with the Chamber” series. Guests enjoyed coffee and doughnuts while learning about the role public libraries play in community development.

Library director Julie Hall said libraries are community hubs, connecting people to information and connecting people to people. In 2016, the Berryville Library had more than 86,000 visitors, circulated more than 107,000 items and hosted more than 500 community programs attended by about 11,500 people ranging from less than a year old to 99, she said.

Hall said libraries are committed to helping children and adults develop the skills they need to survive and thrive in a global information society by providing access to information through books, computers and free Wi-Fi. She said community members logged more than 15,000 hours on Berryville Library computers last year. The library also provides free Wi-Fi access that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she said.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness about all the different people and needs we serve at the library,” Hall said. “Our big message is that to continue to meet the needs of the people of a growing community we need to keep growing the library.”

One way the library is attempting to achieve that goal, she said, is by taking a page from the past. Plans are underway to revamp the Friends of the Berryville Library organization, she said.

Carol Engskov, former library director and member of the Friends group, said the group was originally formed in 1982 as a way to support the library financially.

“I started working at the library in May of 1983, so they were already established,” she said. “There was no millage to support the library, and that was why Friends of the Library was established.”

Engskov said the group helped generate money to put books in the library through fundraisers and the collection of membership dues. The group met every month, she said, and gave her a book allowance to add to the library’s collection.

“It was a really great bunch of people. We had book reviews and all kinds of fundraisers,” she said. “That was literally the only way I had money to spend on purchasing books. We would always push for donations, and they would give me a couple hundred raised by fundraisers or membership drives. Then I would purchase new books and display them the next month to show what was new in the library.”

Over time, the members of the Friends group retired from the organization, she said, and new members were not joining.

“It just kind of fell by the wayside. The library started growing and getting busier, and I didn’t have much time to spend on it,” Engskov said. “We kept having fundraisers, but the little daily things and meetings stopped happening. It was sad to see it go.”

Hall recently asked her to return to the board, Engskov said, so she decided she wanted to see the Friends of the Berryville Library up and running again.

“We have a millage now, but it only covers maintenance and supplies,” Engskov said. “It does not cover anything in the way of capital improvements, expansions or anything like that.”

She continued, “The generosity of this community is very great. I’m hoping the people will want to help us.”

She said the Friends group will focus on generating improvements for the library.

“We want to improve on what we have and start looking down the road toward the dream of doing something bigger because this community deserves it. This is not an overnight venture,” Engskov said. “I think everybody knows that if you have a good library it really benefits the community.”

She continued, “People tend to forget that not everybody has computers or Wi-Fi and not everybody can go to the movie every week. The library offers computer access, DVDs and many other things besides the books, which is still what I’m a big fan of myself.”

Engskov said the attendance at the library’s open house reassured her that it is a good time to bring the Friends group back.

“This was something I would like to see done, but I wanted us to do it right. We thought if we couldn’t get people to turn out for this event, then we would try again in the future,” she said. “But this turnout shows me that there are people who want to help us out.”

If anyone is interested in joining the Friends of the Berryville Library, Hall said they can call the library at 870-423-2323 or stop by and pick up a membership form.

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