Plans complete, fundraising for new Berryville library underway

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Robert Cox / Carroll County News Joe Scott, president of the Berryville Library Advisory Board, speaks during a news conference Friday, April 1, to announce the official beginning of the fundraising effort for the construction of a new $2.5 million library building in Berryville. Library director Julie Hall said the proposed 10,000-square-foot structure is a much-needed improvement, more than tripling the space the library has in its current location.
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

Berryville residents will soon have a new place to read, research, meet, and participate in community activities.

Library staff and members of the board were joined by local elected officials, business leaders and many others Thursday, April 1, to hear a number of announcements regarding the future of the library.

Chief among them was news that plans for the library’s new home had been completed and that fundraising for the project is now underway.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed $2.5 million, 10,000-square-foot Berryville Public Library, which will provide space for dedicated children’s, teen and adult areas, along with spaces available for individual study, meeting rooms and comfortable seating.

“It’s an incredibly exciting future for Berryville, really for all of Carroll County, for every resident and visitor alike,” said Joe Scott, president of the Berryville Library Advisory Board. “This is about setting a legacy for the future. This proposed library is a really essential public space.”

The proposed $2.5 million library building — which will be located at 207 Springfield St. on land donated by the city — was designed by architect Robert “Butch” Berry of Eureka Springs with interior designs planned by Lisa Claybrook of Fayetteville. The projected date to begin construction is 2025.

“This is a day that our staff has been dreaming of for many, many years, but also our patrons,” said library director Julie Hall. “We are so super excited to have actually a proposed new Berryville public library.”

An artist's rendering of the floor plan for the proposed new Berryville Public Library.

According to Hall, the current library — which shares space with some county government offices — is housed in 3,000 square feet of “cramped” space, with shelves reaching floor to ceiling.

The new library would offer 10,000 square feet, providing space for dedicated children, teen and adult areas, along with spaces available for individual study, meeting rooms and seating.

The proposed location, Hall said, will lend itself to a quiet neighborhood and parking lot with much-needed green space for outdoor children’s programs and those who just want to enjoy some fresh air while using the many services the library provides.

“In normal times, we see about 250 people per day in this library, which means about 75,000 people per year,” Hall said. “Typically, we’re running over 500 programs a year that are attended by over 10,000 people. We do this all in this 3,000-square-foot space behind me. It is very crowded in there. It’s a busy place.”

Funds for the new building will be obtained through various fundraising efforts, which means, Hall said, there’s still a lot to do.

“We know that because no tax monies can be used to construct this building, there’s still work to be done,” Hall said.

Leading the charge on the fundraising front will be the Friends of the Berryville Library, which made its own special announcement during the news conference.

According to the group’s president, Mary Knight, the organization recently completed the process to become a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, meaning that, as the library’s fundraising arm, all contributions made to the library — and especially to the building fund — would be tax-deductible.

Maria Burch and her brothers, Jack and Gene, along with their families have been named as the honorary campaign chairs for the Berryville Library Building Project.

“While we have all recently retired from Maverick and the business is under new ownership, the Burch family roots run deep in this area, and we would like nothing more than to help the library succeed in a project that will benefit the community for many decades,” Maria Burch said.

Fundraising efforts are already off to a good start, thanks to a $500,000 donation from the estate of Burt and Alice George. Burt George served on the Berryville Library Advisory Board for years and was instrumental in founding the Carroll and Madison Public Library Foundation to ensure the financial stability of the six libraries that serve the two counties.

“We are so appreciative of this wonderful gift from the George family that puts us well down the road in meeting our fundraising goal much faster than anticipated,” Scott said.

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, who announced the gift, said the idea for the city to purchase the land the city donated for the new library was George’s idea.

“I think it was maybe the late 1990s or early 2000s that the property came up for sale,” McKinney said. “Burt George came to me and said, ‘Mayor, it’s time to square up.’ Burt said the city will need that property or somebody will need that property someday. Burt talked me into buying it and we did.”

McKinney went on to speak about the importance of having a quality library in town, both for the benefit of current residents and to assist in future growth.

“When we’re trying to recruit a business or an industry, we want to be able to go by and show them a nice library,” McKinney said. “A lot of people don’t think of the library, but you get a corporate executive or a business owner and they see a nice library in a town and they know that town cares about knowledge, that town cares about getting their kids educated and ready for the world. And so this is a great community effort.”

As part of the fundraising effort, Wednesday, April 7, had been designated as Library Giving Day.

According to library staff, Library Giving Day serves as a reminder that libraries serve as a cornerstone for the community, offering well-loved books, innovative programs and technology that promote lifelong learning for people of all ages.

To assist in the fundraising effort, the Craig and Michelle Froman family of Berryville also announced Thursday that they will match the first $5,000 received during the donation drive.

Those who wish to donate securely online should visit berryvillelibrary.org/building. Those who wish to donate by check should make them payable to the Berryville Library Building Fund. They may be dropped off at the library or mailed to 104 Spring Street, Berryville, AR 72616.

Those wishing more information may email donate@berryvillelibrary.org or call the library at 870-423-2323.

Levels of giving have been established, with larger gifts having naming opportunities and smaller gifts being recognized on a donor wall or in books in the library’s collection.

“Gifts of any size are always appreciated,” Scott said.

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