Moving forward: BV library announces location for new building

Friday, May 24, 2019
(Left to right) Kristy Noble, public relations coordinator; Johnice Dominick, regional library administrator for the Carroll and Madison Library System; Ron Flake, Berryville Library Advisory Board member; Teri Garrett, field representative for U.S. Rep. Steve Womack’s office; Julie Hall, director of the Berryville Public Library; and Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney celebrate the announcement of a new library site Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce

By Kelby Newcomb

The Berryville Library is ready to begin its next chapter.

At a press conference Tuesday, Christina Courtright, president of the Berryville Library Advisory Board, announced that the board has selected the vacant lot across from the city pool as the site where it hopes to build a new library.

“Space has kind of been a bit of an issue at the library,” Courtright said. “We’ve done our due diligence over time and looked through 12 different areas that we could either build or remodel. We’ve come to the conclusion that the vacant lot across from the city pool is going to be our best opportunity to build a new library.”

Mayor Tim McKinney said the lot had been purchased by the city 20 years ago on the advice of Burton O. “Burt” George, Jr., a community leader, banker and former alderman on the council.

“He said ‘It’s going to be a great piece of property for public use someday right there by your park,’ ” McKinney said.

He said he was going to ask city attorney Clint Scheel to work with the library board on a plan to donate the land at no cost for the new building project, pending approval by the Berryville City Council.

“Libraries have grown so much,” McKinney said. “People don’t realize what all they do. They are centers of knowledge and information. I think this is a great project. I think it’s good for the whole community, not just Berryville but Carroll County.”

Library director Julie Hall said the library is seeing an average of 250 visitors a day. She said people come to the library for a variety of reasons: to check out books, DVDs and other materials, to attend programs, to print and fax documents, to complete online classes, to have online tests proctored, to use computers and free wifi and to navigate tax matters, legal matters and immigration matters.

“People come here for many reasons,” Hall said, “and we provide these resources for free. As technology changes and continues to advance, we know we’re going to need to think about the resources the community needs and continue to grow with that and prepare for the future.”

She thanked the library board and the Friends of the Berryville Library for the time and talents they put into providing leadership and guidance to the library.

“I thank all of these people because we’ve been keeping them very busy,” Hall said, “because the Berryville Library is a very busy place these days.”

She said the library is 81 years old. It was established in 1938 in one small room on the third floor of the courthouse on the Public Square, she said, and moved into its current building in 1978.

“The library quickly outgrew the building as it stood,” Hall said, “and expanded the building to 3,000 square feet in 1990, doubling its size. For 30 years, we have been living and operating out of the same space.”

As the community has grown over the last 30 years, she said the usage of the library has grown as well.

“We see a lot more people and have had a lot more demands for programs and services that the library could offer,” Hall said. “We’ve been trying to figure out a way to solve that problem.”

District 6 Justice of the Peace Craig Hicks, representing the Quorum Court, said he sponsored the resolution approving the library board to enter into an agreement with the city of Berryville to purchase the new property and construct a new building.

“The library is a unique and valuable resource for our community,” Hicks said. “Our library gives people the opportunity to use digital and written sources, to find and apply for jobs, to experience new ideas and get lost in stories all while providing a gathering place. Best of all, the library is free and open to the public.”

Ann Richardson, president of the Friends of Berryville Library, said she appreciated seeing all the support for the library.

“The Friends group was active several years ago, and we reactivated it in May 2017,” she said. “We’ve been fairly successful, and we appreciate all the people who have staffed our fundraisers and attended them.”

Richardson continued, “We invite everyone to be a Friend of the Berryville Library. You will be part of the process and be involved in our new library.”

Ron Flake, a member of the Friends group, said he has been involved since the boards first started thinking about getting a new library.

“We want to thank [McKinney],” Flake said. “We’ve talked about that property for the last couple of years. We always thought we’d have to pay a small amount, which was very generous. But getting it for nothing is unbelievable! Thank you, Tim. We appreciate it.”

He said the library desperately needs some space.

“We need a building with enough room, that we can have meeting rooms, a space for kids, a space for teenagers, a space for computers, room to do things.”

He said the boards are hoping to satisfy all needs, including a possible storm shelter, a coffee shop and shelves reachable by children. He said the new facility will be fully handicapped-accessible.

“We’re not gonna raise this money with bake sales,” Flake said. “We’re only going to raise it with the help and work of the whole community. We’re talking millions of dollars. We’re going to need everyone’s help. It’s a worthwhile project and a good place to put your money.”

He said Kristy Noble was brought onto the team as a consultant for the capital campaign.

“She has done a wonderful job,” Flake said. “We’re pleased and proud to have her on the team.”

Noble said the fundraising will be done through community networking.

“I’ll be working with civic organizations on how we can partner with them,” she said. “I’ll be working with individuals and identifying native sons and daughters who grew up here and now live elsewhere. The best way to do that is through networking and building relationships with the goal of all of us working together to make this happen.”

She said there is nothing better to have than a great library in your community.

“We’re blessed to have such nice facilities all around us,” Noble said, “and now it’s [the library’s] turn. We need everyone’s help and ideas.”

She said the library will begin organizing focus groups to identify programs and services that are going to be needed.

Hall said the next phase of the project will be designing the new building.

“We’re working with Butch Berry and the board on designing what this building should look like,” she said. “We have heard people say ‘These are the things we need,’ and we do need the community to step up and let us know what a new library can provide.”

If anyone is interested in being involved in the focus groups, she said they can call the library at 870-423-2323.

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