A once vacant lot is now home to the modern, high-tech Atkinson City Library—a source of great community pride. The city’s original library was almost 80 years old and Friends of the Library Foundation, Inc., the Library Staff, library patrons, staff, students, and residents alike badly needed the services that a new public library would provide.
The Friends of the Library Foundation Inc. Board of Directors were a driving force behind the project. They established numerous committees whose efforts were focused on getting the new facility built. The project got underway with board and committee members researching the cost of building a new facility. Richard Miller, development director with the Nebraska Library Commission, encourages communities whose libraries are in need of improvements to apply for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The CDBG program specializes in providing economic opportunities to further develop communities.
More than 60 fundraisers were held during a three-year period to help fund the facility. Money poured in from generous private donations and donations from former residents. In addition, the project received CDBG funding, USDA funding, Peter Kiewit funding and money from the Friends of the Library Foundation, Inc. The Robert Pease Memorial Endowment Fund Trust is money collected from interest over time and will be used for library operations.
The new 6,875 sq. ft. library offers nearly twice the space of its 3,600 sq. ft. predecessor. The additional space provides ample shelf space for the library’s 19,500 volumes. The circulation desk has doubled in size. A reading area with fireplace provides a quiet, cozy sanctuary for adults. A storybook mural surrounds the new children’s reading space. A continuing education room with room divider offers flexibility for holding daily and weekly meetings, and according to Judy Hagan, library director, has been used daily since the new library opened. A junior room is available for the youth and a heritage room is equipped with local history and microfilms of the local newspaper.
A unique feature of the Atkinson Library is a drive up window that allows patrons to easily drop off or pick up library materials without leaving their cars. Where the old library lacked technology and easy accessibility, the new library more than makes up for past deficits with computer stations, high-quality wireless Internet, LCD projector, large screen T.V., and handicap accessible lavatories and parking.
Beyond the tangible benefits, the new library has helped beautify the downtown, incorporating a modern look to Atkinson’s historic district.
A dedication ceremony was held on Nov. 6, 2005 to honor the accomplishments of the Friends of the Library Foundation, Inc. and the City of Atkinson. Since its debut, the library has doubled the number of patrons; elementary school classes schedule regular visits; and the Continuing Education Room is regularly booked in the afternoons and evenings. In 2006, library staff plans to work with the Hometown Competitiveness, an Entrepreneurial Training Program that teaches strategic planning techniques to increase economic development in rural communities.
Atkinson city officials realize the value and importance of building their community with support from CDBG funding. In addition to securing CDBG funding for their library project, CDBG funding was also used to bring Osborne Steel Company into town. CDBG allocated $405,000 dollars that will assist Osborne Steel in building new facility equipment manufacturing in the City of Atkinson.
Atkinson continues to pursue projects, such as the new library, Hometown Competitiveness and Osborne Steel in its efforts to increase economic development for the future of Atkinson.