Library celebrates renovations, thanks community

BROCKWAY — After a three-year capital campaign drive, and numerous renovations, the Mengle Memorial Library unveiled its new look in grand fashion before 100 people earlier this month.

The library, which serves as Jefferson County's Library System Headquarters, held an open house to highlight the changes that will improve the library experience of every patron.

"It's really brought us to a point where every citizen is able to access (the library)," library volunteer Barbara Pisarchick said. "Mothers with strollers can use the elevator. Residents who have difficulty with steps can come up and down the elevator. There's a fresh look with carpeting and reupholstered furniture."

In 2007, a financial feasibility study was conducted to determine the need for an elevator and to address major building improvements.

Once the need was confirmed, a capital campaign commenced in 2007, and the library asked the Brockway community for help.

And the answer from the community was overwhelmingly positive.

According to Library Director Darlene Marshall, the community raised $350,000 in a three-year period, making it possible, along with grant money and bequests, to start a new renovation project in 2011.

"With all of the funding cuts we've had, we are really grateful for the grants and for the community's help," Marshall said. "We have a lot to be thankful for."

The project, which totaled $878,456, included numerous improvements.
The library enclosed the open air courtyard in front of the library, adding a preschool area on the lower level and a genealogy room on the upper level.

New carpeting was placed, walls were painted, furnishings were finished or newly purchased, the building was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a new parking lot was added.

The library also installed an elevator for easier access to the lower level, which is helpful to mothers with strollers, who can now more easily bring their children to the newly-renovated children's area.

"We really maximized the dollars that were raised," Marshall said.

"Originally, our feasibility study showed that we would be able to get only an elevator, and we didn't want to just put an elevator in the front of the building, so I said to the board, we'll write grants."

The library received funds from numerous sources, including, the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund; Library Services & Technology Act; the Glenn & Ruth Mengle Foundation; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and a few others. In addition to the renovations, part of the capital campaign and grant funds were used to provide new library services to the community, Marshall said.

The library implemented a Library Services and Technology Grant to provide materials for the new preschool connections area on the lower level, and in January 2009, the library opened a teen room and began providing weekly programs.

The Mengle Memorial Library also targeted senior citizens by providing weekly programs for adults over the age of 55, which led to the library's receipt of the AARP Award for Excellent Library Services to Older Adults.

"They tell leaders you look at the mountain all the time, and you never reach the top and never see it because as you go up the mountain, and you think you're reaching the top, there's another part of the mountain you start to do," Marshall said. "(June 7) was kind of that celebration of wow ... everybody working together has made a difference. Because you don't get this kind of library in a rural area usually."

Brockport resident Tom Lewis, who frequents the library to read newspapers, said he feels it's important for the community to rally around its library.

"It's the only spot in town that you could read the newspapers and get good books," he said. "It's a place of knowledge and recreation, and it serves all ages. Anyone who comes through the door is greeted warmly, regardless of who they are."

Although last Thursday's celebration was the culmination of years of hard work, the library will continue to work diligently for the community and for the future, Marshall said.

The new children's area will better help the library to address the need for basic literacy, which Marshall said is a necessity of life.

The library will also continue to offer new and improved services, including a book club for women in a local nursing home.

Additionally, the library is making plans to provide e-books later this year, and is working with the county's five other libraries to merge all catalogs under one Web site.

"Libraries touch so much, and people think it's all about recreation, but reading is such a basic necessity of life," Marshall said. "If you can't read, you're going to have a lot of hurdles in life."

Marshall said she and her staff are encouraging the public to take time this month to visit the library to see what it now has to offer.

June 1, the library began operating under a new hourly schedule: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

"You want to get kids accustomed to visiting the library, and accustomed to the freedom of reading books and the freedom of accessing materials, and you want to do it in a fun way," Marshall said. "If families can get here and get exposed to books, they will become readers."

This month, if patrons update their library information and return lost books, fines will be forgiven. Summer reading programs also kicked off Tuesday and will run through Aug. 7.

"What we have done here is just so amazing," Marshall said. "Our library is moving Pennsylvania forward."