New BV library would house community’s growing needs

Friday, November 30, 2018

Usage of the Berryville Public Library has doubled since 2000, said library director Julie Hall, but the facility has not been expanded since 1990.

“It’s feeling its age in many ways,” she said.

Hall informed the Carroll County Quorum Court on Monday, Nov. 19, that the library’s board of directors has identified a potential location for a new building. She said they have narrowed it down to a lot of land across from the city pool.

“It’s city-owned, and we feel it would be an ideal location for a new library,” Hall said, “if and when we could raise enough money to build one.”

To accomplish that goal, she said the library board will have to develop a capital fundraising campaign.

“We’re a county department, so all of our funding for operations comes through the county,” Hall said. “There’s a small part of everyone’s property tax that’s dedicated to the public libraries. Berryville gets a portion of that. It’s split between the other libraries in Carroll County.”

Those funds are only for operations and maintenance of current facilities, she said, so new facilities can only be purchased or built with private funds.

“For us to be able to raise money, we need to have specific plans, and a specific location is the first step,” Hall said. “Hopefully, we will have more specific plans of what a new library could look like in the next year so that when people donate money they know what they’re donating money for.”

The main objective at the moment, she said, is to raise awareness about how many people use the Berryville Library and all of the things they are using it for. She said the library is averaging about 90,000 visitors a year.

“People are coming here for all sorts of reasons,” Hall said.

These reasons include recreational services and checking out items such as books, magazines, DVDs, video games and more, she said.

“They’re also coming for programs,” she said. “We’re offering over 500 programs. We have over 10,000 people participating in those programs from ages zero to well into their 90s.”

Some of these programs are traditional library events, like storytimes and free movies, but Hall said the library staff has also been intentional in offering programs that allow people to explore the principles of design thinking.

“It’s kind of what inventors use to create that next new invention,” she said. “It expands opportunities in that way. I see them as coming here to take a step toward their future goals.”

For many, Hall said, the library can serve as an office center, a job center and a legal center.

“There’s lots of faxing and printing going on here,” she said. “At least 10 people come in a month, and I proctor tests for professional licensures. It’s daily that people are coming in here to fill out online job applications or fax timesheets. Lots of people have employers in Harrison, Rogers and Springfield. If they couldn’t come here and fax their timesheets they’d have to drive over there just to get paid.”

She said people also come in to ask for help on how to find a job, how to create or write a resume and how to connect with the workforce development center in Harrison.

“I can’t tell you how many people come here when they have to research specific legal issues that they’re dealing with,” Hall said. “They come here to find information or print off legal forms they need. It’s not so fun, but it’s helping them with the future.”

She said volunteers also come in to help people file taxes, fill out immigration paperwork, learn English and learn to read. She said the library has issued 2,500 new library cards in the last five years.

“We only see future usage growing,” Hall said. “We try to add more programs, materials and resources, but we are literally running out of space to do that. We try to squeeze as many opportunities as we can into this space, but if we had more space we really do think that we could have even better materials and resources to meet those future needs.”

She said more space would allow library patrons to have more privacy while using the computers for legal matters or job applications, and it would allow the library to set up dedicated spaces for a job resource center, homeschooling resources and developmentally appropriate spaces.

“We basically shelve from floor to ceiling,” Hall said. “That’s not good for young kids or anyone who has trouble reaching or bending, which does make a lot of our collection inaccessible to a good portion of our community.”

She continued, “We have to help them access it, but that’s only for the people who are willing to ask for help. It’s not empowering when you have to ask for help to even browse.”

As the economy grows, Hall said she would also like the Berryville Library to become a tool-lending library.

“And not only traditional tools but also business tools you may only need a few times a year as a small business,” she said. “You could access them here, whether it’s extra tablets, a 3-D printer or cameras.”

Hall continued, “All of that could be possible if we had the space to have it properly stored and displayed. We’re kind of looking to the future needs of Berryville, and the library has a role to play in our future growth. For that, we just need more space.”

People interested in helping the Berryville Public Library reach its goal can become members of the Friends of the Berryville Library group, which holds board meetings at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month.

“They’re the people really supporting the needs of our library now and into the future,” Hall said. “It’s not a lot of meetings or a lot of time, but it could be a big show of support. People can get involved as much or as little as they want.”

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