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BELLE CENTER — A gift from a past patron has resulted in the Belle Center Free Public Library’s new life.
An open house is planned Monday to show the public the improvements made to the facility after it was closed for most of March.
Library Director Amy Bowdle said the closing was necessary for volunteers to move the thousands of books, movies and magazines so workers could lay carpet, paint walls and build shelves.
Two years ago it hardly seemed possible the Belle Center Library would have such good fortune. In fact, said Bowdle, it looked as if it might be forced to close its doors.
State funding had left the library in a financial bind, she said. In 2008, said Bowdle, the library was operating comfortably, but that changed with the state budget which hit local libraries hard.
“Things were looking pretty bleak around here,” said Bowdle. “We were operating on a measly amount and just getting by.”
But following the death of Belle Center native and attorney Robert Reed, the library board learned it, along with each of the village’s churches, had been left $50,000 as part of the attorney’s estate.
The library board agreed to give the facility a face lift with its $50,000. The library closed its doors on March 1 and they remained closed until March 27. Volunteers stepped forward to fill 150 large boxes with books taken from the shelves.
“Every book came off every shelf and was put in a box,” said Bowdle. “Then those stacks of boxes had to be moved. Pictures were stored and we left a bare space.”
Carpet was laid throughout the library and walls painted. Book shelves were rebuilt and enough money was left over from the Reed donation to put aside for a future rainy day, Bowdle said.
In addition, the Friends of the Library agreed to convert a conference room into a media center. The conference room was seldom used, she said, and now is ready for patrons. The new center includes a big screen TV, an X-Box system with family-friendly videos and a variety of board games.
The center is located in the rear of the building and gives a family the opportunity to share reading time with their children, said the librarian.
“This is a really good addition to the library,” said Bowdle, “and it was furnished through the support of the community.”
The Belle Center Library is also making plans for its preschool story time beginning May 14 and its summer reading program, which starts in June. Program information for ages 2 through adult is available at the library.
Bowdle said she is hopeful patrons who haven’t visited the library in a while will stop in during the open house and see what improvements have been made. The hours are Monday 5-7 p.m. Refreshments will be available and a $50 gas gift card will be given away.
“We will be ready Monday for everyone to come and take a look,” said Bowdle. “We hope people will come and see what has been done and take advantage of our services.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer