By Crystal Burns
Gibson County Memorial Library leaders are on a mission to fund a new building.
Lindsey Ingram, library director, met with Friends of the Library members and other supporters last week to discuss establishing a foundation.
“We’re in a push for a new building,” Ingram said. “We need to get the ball rolling to let the [Gibson County Commission] know how serious we are.”
The library, located at 303 S. High Street in Trenton, currently receives $140,000 from the county and $33,000 from the City of Trenton for its annual budget. The library serves Trenton, Dyer, Rutherford, Yorkville, Kenton, Spring Hill and Bradford. Patrons from Milan, Medina, Humboldt and Gibson also use the library but are not counted in its service area.
Annual library attendance in 2017-18 was 44,644, up from 33,097 the previous year. Ingram said she expects another attendance increase for the 2018-19 year.
Ingram said a needs assessment was conducted in 2000 and showed that the library was already overcrowded and desperately needed more space.
“Fast forward 18 years, and the problem has only grown,” she said. “We are literally using every inch of square footage we have and have no other space for our library to grow. This prevents us from offering programs and services that the patrons in our community need.”
The building is 5,200 sq. ft., well below the state standard of 11,115 sq. ft.
Friends of the Library recently spent about $18,000 to contract with Anders C. Dahlgren, a nationally known library consultant. In a letter to the Friends, Dahlgren said it’s evident that the floor space math at the library doesn’t work.
Last week, Ingram said that Dahlgren has one more site visit to make before he submits his final report, which will include dimensions for a building that would serve the Memorial Library’s needs. Ingram said the goal is to pair Dahlgren with an architecture firm to draw plans for a new facility.
A library foundation would help raise money for a new library while advocating for the services the library provides.
“Many people think that libraries will soon become obsolete, and that there is no longer a demand for our services,” Ingram said. “The truth is, there is a greater demand for our services now than there has ever been. Libraries are not in the ‘book business,’ we are in the ‘people business.’ The programs and services that our patrons need have changed, and the library is changing along with them.”
Ingram has already begun contacting influential community members in the library’s service area to recruit them for the foundation, which has 501(c)(3) status. Local attorneys Chad Butler and Bradley Owens filed the paperwork for the foundation’s non-profit status at no cost to the library and will write the bylaws for the foundation, using examples from Humboldt and Martin.
Don Farmer, who serves on the regional and state library boards, said establishing a foundation opens doors of opportunities for the Gibson County Memorial Library. He said federal and state grants are available and added that the state committee has a $100,000 matching grant it awards each year.
Ingram noted that Kinglsey Brock, the county’s economic developer, has given her suggestions for grant writers. Jerry Phillips, Gibson County Memorial Library Board chairman, said County Financial Director Greg Pillow has offered to take the foundation chairperson to the USDA office to talk to officials there about grants.
The foundation can also accept large donations, whereas the Friends of the Library can only raise $30,000 a year. Anyone interested in bequeathing money to the library will also go through the foundation.
Library leaders indicated that there is strong support for the library on the county commission, but commissioners want to see community involvement as well.
“It’s going to take a community effort definitely, but you’ve got to start somewhere,” Ingram said. “We’re out of space. Our service area needs a library, and they deserve a library that meets all of their needs.”
The library staff has already planned a fundraiser to benefit the foundation. A silent auction and soup lunch will be held Saturday, Jan. 12, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Trenton First Presbyterian Church. Cost is $7 per person and includes a bowl of soup or chili, crackers or cornbread, dessert and a drink. To donate an item for the silent auction or to make a monetary donation, contact Ingram at 855-1991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.