Library for West Polk: Benton’s library gets new facilit
by By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Feb 24, 2013 | 2104 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Polk Library
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A NEW SIGN announces the future location of the West Polk Public Library in Benton. Banner Photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
If someone living in Benton wants to visit a library to check out books or use a computer in town, they currently have to head to a room in the basement of the Polk County Courthouse.

However, progress has been made on the renovation of the building that will become the new freestanding location of the town’s West Polk Public Library.

This past week, volunteers from Polk County’s chapter of the Friends of the Library Association and Cleveland’s Home Depot store painted the walls that will serve as a backdrop to new additions such as a computer lab and a children’s area at the library’s future location in Benton.

“We’ve needed a new location for a while,” Jenny Rogers, a member of FOLA, said. “We’re going to be tripling our space.”

Right now, the plan is to open sometime in April, she said.

In July, FOLA purchased the building that had previously been home to the Benton Family Health Care Center. The Polk County Commission approved the library’s move to the new location.

Since then, volunteers have been working to dismantle the walls of what used to be doctors’ exam rooms to create open spaces for the library’s materials.

The most recent set of volunteers was a group of Home Depot employees from Cleveland. The group added color to the library’s walls in an effort that Alisa Price, who coordinates the store’s volunteer projects, said is part of the company’s mission to help the communities in which stores are located.

Employees from Home Depot regularly volunteer their time outside of work, she said.

Price added that, even though the West Polk Library is not in Cleveland, the group’s trip to Benton still impacted where some of their customers live.

“We consider it [Benton] part of our community,” Price said. “It’s part of our core values to help the community.”

Rogers approached the Cleveland Home Depot store with a request for help, and the store accepted, sending out its first group of volunteers for 2013.

Clarence McClure, FOLA’s building chairman, said the library’s new location will provide the space to offer programs the library has not been able to have before now.

He said he believes the new library will also be seen as a more welcoming place because of the larger, more open interior and easy parking access.

“We certainly hope it has a positive effect,” McClure said.

He said the library could also have the opportunity to extend its hours to include nights and weekends.

McClure said the biggest disadvantage of the library’s current location is the list of hours the library has to maintain, because of the courthouse’s daily hours.

The West Polk library is currently open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m., located at 126 Polk Street in Benton.

The Polk County Library Board and the Polk County Commission would need to approve any changes in the library’s hours, he said.

“Our goal is maybe they’ll see fit to extend our hours,” McClure said.

Polk County residents have their choice of two libraries — the East Polk Public Library in Ducktown and the West Polk Public Library in Benton.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 population numbers said Polk County is home to an estimated 16,825 people spread out over nearly 435 square miles of land.

The East Polk location is freestanding, but the West Polk library has been working with a smaller space.

The West Polk library’s expanding space will mean more room for things like a computer lab and a dedicated section for children, Rogers said.

She explained many of Polk County’s residents don’t have Internet access at home, so the West Polk library could become a place that allows people to stay in touch with people and search for jobs in ways they cannot currently do in Benton.

The library currently owns several computers, but the courthouse location does not have the space to set up all of them, she said.

The East Polk library already has a computer lab.

Rogers also said things like a child-sized seating area could encourage more children to spend more time reading books in the library.

The courthouse location has a section of books for children, but no dedicated room or seating area for them.

The new library location will be at 126 Polk St. in Benton. The exact date the library will open has not yet been determined.