Library land ready for action
The Shepherdstown Public Library is now free to take ownership of land where they have a new building planned. The West Virginia Department of Environment Protection has approved their clean-up and restoration work.
The certificate declares the land on the edge of town and the groundwater within it to be clean of nearly 35 environmental contaminants. The state’s certificate of approval completes a five year process. It also allows the library project to move to the next step.
That next step won’t be anything the public will see right away. The property deed is in transfer process into the library’s name. There are also planning and zoning approvals to use the vacant land in this way. However library board president, Libby Sturm, says now they can make plans.
“When you can actually say this is ours, it’s a lot different than saying we are waiting on this and waiting on that,” she said.
Library director, Hali Taylor, who helps patrons on a daily basis, called this step a silent phase.
“We are now raising over $3 million dollars. We will be looking for larger donations first,” she expalined. Public appeal will come once they have a substantially smaller amount to raise.
The library’s new building project is actually not new at all. The idea began in the early 1990s when the library’s staffing turned over.
“We’re paid per capita by the state, but all funding combined we are 49th in the country,” Taylor shared. She is essentially saying that Shepherdstown’s tiny library is on its own when it comes to meeting standards in 2014.
Taylor also understands public opinion.
“People love that at the heart of town is the library,” she said.
She described the detailed efforts the library took to relocate inside the town limits. They looked at six other buildings. They looked at renovating the old market building in which they are currently housed. They even planned a historically approved, elaborate expansion out the back of the library that would have included building underground.
“The biggest problem with staying in town is there is no parking.” said Taylor.
Other store owners in town say the same thing. First-come first-serve street parking is part of any in-town life.
Parking is just one of several problems with the tiny building that has become the town’s logo.
“It’s embarrassing. We have no place for people to sit. We can offer them the chair in the corner but have to give them a dunce hat,” Taylor said with a laugh.
Native Shepherdstown residents are familiar with the over-crowding. One local woman, Joyce Hiett, remembers the public library almost 50 years ago.
“It was too crowded to be a library when I came here for college in 1965,” she said.
When the new Shepherdstown Public Library finally becomes reality, it will sit across from the Clarion Hotel. The property served as the town’s dumpsite for household waste between 1954 and 1969. This is why the library needed the WV DEP certification of approval.
Taylor says moving out of town is about being responsible.
“We need to make room for the patrons we are supposed to serve. We can’t have children’s programs in this building because we can’t fit them all. It’s not respectful,” she stressed.
Instead, they hold programs in the community club and the train station which don’t require a staircase to get to them.
For residents who want the little white building in the street in the center of town to forever remain a library, it will, in some form. Library officials plan to turn the upstairs into a genealogy and local history center. Downstairs, they are planning a community reading room with plenty of seating and media.