Tom Butt for Richmond City Council The Tom Butt E-Forum About Tom Butt Platform Endorsements of Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt Accomplishments Contribute to Tom Butt for Richmond City Council Contact Tom Butt Tom Butt Archives
  E-Mail Forum
  Other Cities and Other Libraries
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.

Grand opening
BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Sunday, October 10, 2004
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/story/nwat/20536

Library patrons of all ages crowded around the Blair Library on Saturday morning to commemorate its first official day of business.

The crowd came to a hush as the North Arkansas Symphony began playing Aaron Coplands "Fanfare for the Common Man." Poet Miller Williams read a poem especially written for the occasion called "The Alphabet as Part of What We Know," followed by remarks by Mayor Dan Coody and Jim Blair. "This crowd is almost as impressive as this building," said Louis Gottsponer Jr., president of the library's board of trustees. "The last time in Fayetteville that we had a crowd like this was when we opened the doors to the Fulbright Library

Funding for the library was made possible through a temporary sales tax and generous donations. The largest of these, $3 million, was made by Blair in memory of his late wife, Diane Divers Blair, his grandmother, Bessie Motley Blair, and his aunt, Dr. Mary Grace Blair. In addition, a $2 million gift was made by Barbara Tyson in memory of her late husband, Randal Tyson. The names of donors who contributed $1,000 or more were etched in the glass located inside the library.
" Our Children and our children's children will have something to look back on, "said Louise Schaper, FPL executive director." We did it!"

As the doors finally opened, patrons rushed in to get a look at the new facility. "The kids immediately flooded toward the children's section to take control of their domain," Blair said. "If that didn't bring some sort of emotion to you, then you must just be cold-hearted."

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.

More than just a building, Blair Library is the home of an extensive collection of books, periodicals and media that will grow to more than 300,000 volumes in the upcoming years. The new building allows the FPL to meet the informational needs of the community for decades, from fiction to film and from children's literature to resources for homework "I used to be a librarian, and I must say that this library is pretty fantastic," said Helene Furst, library patron. "I just came to look at some of the CDs before they are completely gone."

Following the opening ceremony was a live jazz performance by Jim Greeson and a visit and book signing with Frances Mayes, author of "Under the Tuscan Sun," " Bella Tuscany, "" Bringing Tuscany Home" and others. Ongoing tours and wireless demonstrations also carried on throughout the day. "The best part of all of this is seeing peoples faces as they walk in for their first time," said Elise Mitchell, public relations coordinator. "Now the challenge is up to us to take advantage of all of this knowledge we have at our fingertips."