|Other Cities and Other
October 11, 2004
For more than 20 years, after my brothers and I were in school, my
mother worked as a librarian in the Fayetteville, Arkansas, Public
Library. She was the reference librarian, committed to finding whatever
information anybody needed about anything. I remember in the sixties her
telling me about her special collection on subsistence farming she had
assembled for all the back to the landers, young people (locally known
also as hip-billies) from California and other states who had bought
cheap land in the Ozarks and were trying to raise young families on
communes by selling goats milk and handicrafts.
So, when Fayetteville's new public library opened this weekend, we came to Arkansas to represent my mothers memory. My brother and I made a modest donation to the effort, and somewhere in the library is a table with my moms name on it.
But that's not what this is about. This is a story about a town of 60,000 that values its public library so much that the citizens reached into their pockets for $23.4 million dollars to construct one of the finest public libraries in the United States. They did it with an 18-month, one-half cent sales tax that raised $19 million. Two local businessmen chipped in another $4 million, and the facility was not only paid for the day it opened, but it had an additional $5 million in an endowment to help operate it.
California was well represented besides us. The keynote speaker was Californian Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. At a Library Advocacy Brunch, Mary Jean Place of Palo Alto spoke of library advocacy and her continuing struggle to upgrade the Palo Alto Public Library. She decried the condition of not just the Palo Alto library but of libraries all over California.
The new Fayetteville Public Library is an 88,000 square foot facility with 300,000 volumes,130 computer terminals, and its own parking garage. It sits on the edge of the historic city square on a hill with a breath-taking view of the Ozark Mountains. It is not just a library but a community center that includes meeting facilities, a café and a bookstore. It is also a green building, the first in Arkansas to be certified by LEED.
It is always good to see what people are doing in other communities. We in Richmond can have libraries or anything else our community needs if we are simply willing to go for it. Maybe our local businesses, such as Chevron and Mechanics Bank could offer a challenge grant of several million dollars to resuscitate our library if the rest of us were willing to help out.
BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Sunday, October 10, 2004
Library patrons of all ages crowded around the Blair Library on
Saturday morning to commemorate its first official day of business.
Arsagas Espresso Cafe, located in the library, was also open for
business. In addition to a full drink menu with cappuccinos, lattes,
mochas, iced and frozen drinks, smoothies, juice, teas and more, patrons
could purchase morning pastries, salads and lunch fare.