Book sale will help the Friends of the Abilene Public Library fund progress on the new main branch
The annual Friends of the Abilene Library Sale is back. Next week volunteers will welcome shoppers to the biggest used-book sale in West Texas. This will be the third year that the donations raised from the sale will go towards the renovation of the former-Lincoln Middle School into a state-of-the-art, three-story library.
The installation of a new main branch for the Abilene public library has been in the works for over a decade. Now crews have begun demolition and the plans are getting closer to becoming a reality.
According to the Heritage Square Project Board, Abilene is in desperate need of a new public library. Julee Hutton, director of library services, says the current library opened in 1960 with the intention to serve Abilene for 20 years. It's now served as the main branch for more than 60 years. “We need a building that has more flexible space and is more capable of current technology," Hutton says. "The design of the building and the infrastructure is not built for the technology we have today.”
The new library is part of the Heritage Square Project, which is transforming the old Lincoln Middle School building into a center for education and culture. The renovated building will be home to a new auditorium, event center, and science museum, with the goal of creating a contemporary learning atmosphere.
And Laura Moore, who is on the executive committee of the Abilene Heritage Square Board, says amid all the new developments of Heritage Square, the new library will be the beacon in the center of it all, “I think the expanse of what a library does is amazing. It moves people forward in tremendous ways. It is the greatest equalizer for our society, because it is open to all. It wants everyone to succeed.”
Eileen Cudd facilitates children’s activities at the main branch of the Abilene library. Some of these activities include Super Story Time, where Cudd reads books to children about a specific theme, as well as leads on-theme songs and crafts.
She also incorporates science, technology, engineering, art, and math in other programs to bring a STEAM-focus into the library’s children’s literacy programs. Cudd says she looks forward to relocating because she will have the space to do more messy and involved science experiments, as well as give kids the room to build and play, “The ability to have an open space where kids can really explore buildings with different kinds of materials, not just with legos and K’nex, but with cardboard boxes, and building with foam blocks and things like that to allow them to really explore those engineering concepts.”
Six-year-old Baer and his three-year-old brother Beau made pirate hats during last week’s Super Story Time. Their mom, Ashley Brazelle, says she enjoys taking advantage of the programs the library has to offer to get her kids more exposure to books, “I always tell my kids that if they learn to read they can see the whole world and experience different things through imagination and we love encouraging that.”
In the month of June alone, the library hosts nearly 80 children’s literacy and STEAM events across all three branches. The library staff is looking forward to moving into a new location, which will allow for a 20,000 square foot upgrade from the downtown library for new book collections, technology, furniture, and a floor dedicated entirely to children.
Crews have already completed phase one of renovations, with a goal of completing the project by 2024. Donors have already given $47-million toward the project, but officials have watched the costs of materials rise in recent years, and are still calculating the total cost.
Martha Magee, chairman of the 2022 book sale, says over the past three years the book sale has helped the Friends reach the $500,000 that they pledged to the construction. “Libraries are the hub of the city,” Magee says. “We offer so much more than books, its programing, its loaning of equipment, its audio books, it just runs the gamut.”
And the book sale itself offers shoppers a wide range of items, not just books, but DVDs, CDs and records. Donors have already gifted at least 85,000 items and books of many genres, including fiction, non-fiction, science, history, children’s books, and more. And all titles are only $2 or less.
The Friends of the Abilene Library is giving the public the chance to expand their own personal libraries at the book sale June 16th through 19th. More information is available on the City of Abilene website.