by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
Over the past few years, there has been a drive to expand the Humboldt Public Library. Plans called for adding 2,300 sq.ft. to the back of the building to create a new children’s library and activity space.
At the time, the costs to build onto the library had a projected cost of $400,000 to $500,000. Since that time, the price of building materials and labor has skyrocketed. Now, the cost is estimated somewhere between $800,000 and $1.2-million.
“Prices have more than doubled,” said Library Director John Blankenship. “This forced the Humboldt Public Library Board of Trustees and the Humboldt Public Library Foundation to re-evaluate the plan. With the overall project, $1-million is out of reach without substantial donations.”
Blankenship said the library foundation is looking into options to move forward. The foundation has raised close to $300,000 in donations. There are grant opportunities as well, but those funds are not guaranteed and certainly not enough to fund a million-dollar project.
No decision has been made as to the best way to use the donated funds, whether it be continue seeking donations to fund the original plan or use the current funds to repurpose the available space within the current building with some updates.
“One option being looked at is to utilize the second floor, which is being used for storage right now,” Blankenship noted. “That would allow reconfiguring the first floor layout to better utilize the space.”
One project that has come to fruition is the “That’s My Brick” fundraiser. There were 201 “forever bricks” purchased for $100 each in honor or in memory of individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and/or corporations. These bricks had been designated to be installed at the entrance on Burrow St. but it was decided they would be much more visible at the main library entrance on 16th Ave.
The stamped paver bricks were laid last week between the sidewalk and the front porch of the library. Once the bricks were in place, there was additional space available for over 100 more bricks. Blankenship said there is no plan currently to have another “That’s my Brick” fundraiser, but it could be an option the foundation looks into.
The Humboldt Public Library has made changes over the years to keep up with the times. Yes, there are still thousands of books that can be checked out but the library is so much more than books. Patrons can check out movies, or check out audio or digital books on their tablets, computers or phones. The library also has several computer stations for the public to use at no charge. They also offer copy, printing and fax services for a small fee. The internet garden at the front porch area offers free wi-fi.
The children’s library stays busy with several special programs and activities monthly.
Director Blankenship, who is also the county and city’s official historian, said the library has a rich history. The first unofficial library was inside the old city hall building, which is now the home of the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, West Tennessee Regional Art Center and the Humboldt History Museum. In the early 1940s, one room was designated for donated books. The first official library (the current library) was built in 1954. Humboldt American Legion built the building, then known as the War Memorial Building, in honor of WWI and WWII soldiers. Its purpose was to have a community auditorium. American Legion held their meetings upstairs. The library began in what is now the conference room, but quickly expanded to other areas of the building. In the early 1970s, the library took over the auditorium, which was the biggest expansion. In 1979, the Humboldt Strawberry Festival History Museum opened in the building, along with the first children’s library. In the mid-1990s, the museum moved into the old city hall where it is located today. Cosmetic renovations took place in the early 2000s with new flooring, windows and doors, Blankenship said.
Now, with close to $300,000 and possibly more coming down the pike, a new addition, renovations and repurposing areas are all still on the table to make Humboldt Public Library better. Although the plans to add onto the building are ambiguous at best, no matter how big or small the revitalization projects are, the library will continue to serve Humboldt and the surrounding communities for years to come.