Santa to help Liberty Hill Public Library celebrate 15th anniversary
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Fifteenth anniversaries deserve special guests, and what better guest for a holiday-time milestone celebration than the big man himself?
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand from 3-5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, to help the Liberty Hill Public Library celebrate its 15th anniversary in style and say thank you to the community that has made it so successful.
“We wanted to do a kind of Christmas open house, and we wanted to do an anniversary, so we decided to combine them,” Librarian Angela Palmer said. “So we’re going to have Mr. and Mrs. Claus here.”
The event is focused on that community commitment to helping the library grow over the years.
“If the community didn’t want the library or wasn’t invested in the library, we wouldn’t be here because we couldn’t do this without the community’s support,” Palmer said. “We could be open with nothing going on, but who would that be serving? We’re so pleased people care enough to be involved and care enough to come in.”
Sunday’s celebration will include free pictures with Santa, where kids can make a frame and decorate it for their special keepsake photo.
“We will have games for the kids and some crafts,” she said. “Our balloon artist will be here. It is just a way for us to tell the community thank you for all it has done and celebrate this huge milestone.”
Library Board President Gary Henley, who was involved in the building of the library and establishment of the library district, recalls just how much community buy-in the project required.
“We got participation from pretty much everybody in town and we raised some cash and got everything else donated and we built that library,” he said. “Once we got people excited about what we were going to do it became easy to get the community behind us.”
Looking back on the long journey from the library as an idea through to today, Henley is proud of how the community has come together.
“From where we sit today, the foresight of the initial group, before we even got there, has shown that the original vision and idea of what was needed and wanted in the community was right on,” he said.
The growth has been seen in how the original tax checks coming in at around $1,500 per month have grown to about $20,000 and the once all-volunteer staff has evolved as well.
“Those things have allowed us to grow and begin to reach some of the potential we saw when we built the building,” Henley said.
Looking back on the opening of the building 15 years ago, Henley remembers most just what it meant at that time to make the library a reality.
“It was the realization in the community that we had a place the kids could come and be introduced to reading and the variety of programs that could be brought to them,” he said. “To be able to see that brought to fruition and see the kids come in and see it was great. Those are the kinds of things you are so proud of and we’re proud we have that for the city and community.”
Palmer, who has been with the library for five years, said keeping the library thriving and growing for 15 years is something the community should be proud of. She said customer service and ever-improving and expanding programming has been key.
“We’ve increased our programming, with our Summer Reading Program in particular drawing a lot of people in,” Palmer said. “We’ve gotten grants for books and the board has upped our book budget, so having new things for people to read, programs for kids to attend all tend to make a big difference.”
That evolution of the library is not a simple task because resources are always limited.
“It is a huge challenge staff and money wise, and also technology wise to try and keep up on everything,” Palmer said. “Technology is something we always need to work on, but money, staff and space are always the big three for us.”
Palmer is always contemplating changes, hoping to expand programming, eventually offering options like computer and resume classes for adults and coding for children.
In addition to programming, changes are on the drawing board in terms of the facility itself.
First on the list is about $14,000 for new LED lighting, and then some flooring.
“It is very very dark in places, and you can’t check out books if you can’t see the titles,” Palmer said. “We also need new flooring because this carpet is original. Those are the two things we’d like to do since we got the roof done.”
Much-needed additional space is also something often discussed as the current library is a total of about 2,400 square feet, including office and storage space.
“There’s the huge issue of are we going to build here, are we going to expand, do we have to find another place to build a new building?” Palmer said. “But the next big thing here is to put new lighting in.”
Henley said the need is for about 5,000 square feet, but that a two-story structure with the 5,000 square foot footprint would give the library 10,000 square feet to grow into.
No matter what the plans are down the road, Palmer said the same community buy-in that helped make the building a reality 15 years ago will always be critical.
“Without the community being behind us and involved with us and being a part of it, we wouldn’t be here,” she said. “We’re here to serve at the pleasure of our taxpayers, so for them to be involved and want to be involved, is critical. They have to be a part of it to make it thrive.”