MONROE — It’s been more than 25 years since the Monroe Library got its last face lift, and the Library Board of Trustees, library staff, and community members are raising money for another update. They are calling it “Let’s Do Something Extraordinary for Monroe.”
The goal is to raise $1.5 million by the end of 2021. There are different initiatives underway to raise the money as well. Colony Brands Foundation and Klondike Cheese Co. will match any donations up to $500,000. The Monroe Woman’s Club has given an additional $10,000. There is also the Extraordinary Women Initiative where the goal was for 100 area women to donate $1,000 each over the course of five years in order to renovate the circulation desk. That number breaks down to $200 per year, or just $18 per month. Instead of gaining 100 pledges, there have already been 114 local women pledge donations.
“We’re really excited that fundraising is going so well. We weren’t sure what to expect from the pandemic,” said Suzann Holland, Library Director. Holland added that while the overall goal is to raise $1.5 million, more donated dollars could be useful with the current high cost of building materials, much of which is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the library has tried to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic by using curbside services, much of what patrons of the library desire — like computer use, meeting space and quick research, has been hard to overcome. That all changes in less than a week, as the library will reopen May 25 at full capacity after being mostly closed for over a year due to the pandemic.
“It’s been a long road. Hopefully people are encouraged to get involved,” Holland said.
Coinciding with the reopening will be a shift in the fundraising efforts. Holland said that the campaign shift away from asking for corporate and business sponsorships, and move toward the general public. As of right now, there is more than $466,000 on hand in the campaign, with nearly $750,000 pledged.
Envelopes will be distributed to the local public inside publications of the Monroe Times and Monroe Shopping News before June. Those interested will be able to make a straight donation or a pledge to help raise the funds.
In 1993, local businessman Lee Geiger bought the building from the Monroe Clinic, which had moved out to its current location on the north side of the city. Geiger formed a committee to raise $330,000 to renovate the building for library use, and in November 1994, a $1.6 million referendum was passed.
On March 30, 1996, hundreds of volunteers, from young children barely able to walk to retirees, created a line crossing 9th street from the former Arabut Ludlow Library to the much larger, more spacious current building across the street. Volunteers then handed off books, one-by-one, from now the Monroe Chamber of Commerce building on the north side of the street, winding like a snake through the parking lot to the south side and into the present-day facility.
More than 20 years later, the age of the building has begun to show. The Library’s Board of Trustees and Staff surveyed the community to see what the public’s desired to have in their library. After the survey, it was determined that a renovated building would enhance downtown opportunities for learning and growth for people of all ages, and could even encourage families that move to Monroe to stay.
Library services have also changed over the past quarter century. “It’s not just about the books anymore,” Holland said. Meeting spaces for groups and the literacy council have a growing need, so the library wants to be more hospitable in that regard.
The capital campaign seeks to redesign the entryway and lobby, plus add additional meeting rooms and storage. Most of the renovations will be done on the second floor, beginning with the main stairway in the middle of the building. The stairs will keep its curved aesthetic, but will be narrowed and made safer for young children to climb.
There are also plans to make improvements to the Literacy Council and genealogy areas, as well as provide flexible space to accommodate more community functions and for the facility to be brought up to ADA code. The restrooms will be updated, the lighting enhanced, a quiet reading room will be added, and renovations to the children’s and adult fiction areas will also be made.
John Baumann, Colony Brands Foundation President, and Ron Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co. President, joined the library’s campaign. Baumann is serving as a member of the Honorary Committee, while Buholzer is on the campaign committee.
In February, Buholzer said in “It is a community effort. We are bound in community. May it always be so,” referencing the poem “We Build on Foundations We Did Not Lay.”
For more information about the capital campaign, or to join the 100 Extraordinary Women campaign, contact Suzann Holland at email@example.com.