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Castleberry Fairs

With Maplehurst gone, new library dream closer to reality


September 05, 2012
BETHLEHEM — Visions of an improved library have floated around town for many years. The dream is turning toward reality now. An anonymous benefactor, the demolition of the Maplehurst, and a lot of planning has ignited the path to build a new library at last.

Bethlehem's current library is on the main floor of the town hall. It's a cozy, bright space, but behind the times. As director Laura Clerkin noted last week, the town needs more room in order to better serve the public.

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the library at the town hall. Clerkin said that people do like the woodwork and the ambiance of the current location. There are many positive memories for people at the town hall site, she said. However, "we're simply out of space," Clerkin declared.

With only about 1,500 current square feet, the library has no dedicated meeting space. This is limiting, especially for children's groups, guest speakers, and after school crowds.

Clerkin noted that some events require chairs from the third floor of the town hall. Staff also must move heavy tables and other items that get in the way.

Perhaps most illustrative of the space issue is the mantle near the library's staff desk. A printer and other equipment sit in the fireplace.

Clerkin said that the quest for a new library began about ten years ago. There was some preliminary thinking done to use the site east of the gazebo. This fell through for various reasons. Clerkin said that the multi-level structure required at that spot would not have been desirable.

The relatively flat Maplehurst site fits the bill better, she believes. A building committee is working on a vision for the new building.

The committee includes a range of construction experts and members of the board of trustees. "Everybody has their place in the puzzle," Clerkin said to describe the committee's focus.

Even with the experts on the committee, Clerkin views the community as key. "We want to engage the community, and really make it a community space." As of now, plans are for at least 6,000 square feet on one level for the new library. This would be about four times the current room.

The reality of a new library has been made possible through an anonymous donation. The town received $1.5 million from an unknown source for the purpose of building a new library.

Clerkin said that the very generous gift will mean that tax dollars will not be needed to build the library. The town will be responsible for upkeep and heating, however. Clerkin said that a warrant article to build the structure will ensure that the town agrees with the plan.

The building committee continues to ponder ideas for the new library. For now Clerkin said that the current library stands ready to serve the public. Town property owners and residents can get a library card for free, others pay $20 a year, Clerkin said.

All items at the library, including 500 DVDs and videos, can be checked out for two weeks.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Parker Village
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