Highlights of 2016: Library seeks expansion

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Kelsey Bartlett Former New Castle Editor

Photo by Kelsey Bartlett The Craig County Public Library, located on Main Street in New Castle, is one of the smallest in the state, and its staff is seeking to expand the building and its services.

STORY ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE 3.9.16 EDITION OF THE NEW CASTLE RECORD:

Located on the corner of Main Street in New Castle, the Craig County Public Library is one of the smallest in the state, but it makes the most of its space. Books are crammed into every nook and cranny, DVDs line the walls and computers are tucked into its corners.

Until its opening in July 2004, Craig County had no library. The approximate 700-square foot building serves the entirety of the county’s 5,210 residents. Now, its staff is hoping to renovate and expand both the building and its services.

A community meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 6 p.m. in the Craig-Botetourt Electric building. The library board is hoping that local churches, businesses and residents will all attend to pitch ideas and jumpstart the renovation.

“We’re inviting anybody we can invite to come there and talk about the plans,” said board member Jay Polen. “We’ve been thinking about renovations for a while, but within the last year it has really exploded.”

The Craig County Board of Supervisors has authorized filing a letter of interest seeking a community development block grant to assist in the development of a long-range plan to address needed improvements at its February meeting.

“We have an expansion committee that we’ve set up,” Craig County Library President Linda Calderon said at the meeting. “We’ve been working very diligently to see what the possibilities are. We have done community surveys asking people what they would like to see. We’ve visited a lot of other libraries in the area to see what they consisted of and how they are different than ours.”

Many of the books acquired by the library aren’t on display, because there simply isn’t enough space. The library board of trustees is looking to expand the library to at least 5,000- square feet.

For many in the community, the library provides their only access to a computer, which is essential for applying for jobs, as well as learning the technical skills that they often require.

The Craig County Public Library Board of Trustees is responsible for setting library policies and approving its budget. The library director, Carla Ritzer-Old, is responsible for the library’s day-to-day operation. “If we do get this grant that allows us to seek other grants, we need to keep the community informed,” Polen said. “Obviously, we’re going to need more staff if we expand.”

The trustees are hoping to provide the tools necessary for building community prosperity through education, information and social interaction, providing more opportunities for residents through expansion of library resources and services.

On the list of its goals, the trustees hope to become a recognized Virginia Workforce Development Center and a center for community colleges to provide distance learning programs. They also hope to provide a greater collection of digital and print media, provide meeting and learning spaces that are welcoming and code compliant for citizens with disabilities, and technology outreach classes for seniors.

They also want to provide high-speed internet, a broader range of arts and cultural programs, and access to genealogical data. The library is hoping to acquire the adjacent TDS lot that is up for auction. If the library cannot purchase the building, it will seek other options, possibly creating a multiple-level building.