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Dedication set Friday at Burnett Library and Learning Center / August 27, 2014
At a time when many community libraries are having difficulty adapting to the digital revolution, the campaign to solicit funds to expand the Clarksville Area Public Library has not only reached its fundraising goal ahead of schedule, but the construction project has been completed as well, thanks to the help of many individuals who have clearly demonstrated their appreciation of its importance to the future of the Clarksville area.

Everyone is encouraged to attend the dedication and celebration of this milestone improvement for our community, at the library Friday at 10 a.m. . Following brief remarks by town and library leaders and honoree Joanie Burnett and a ribbon-cutting, all attendees are invited into the library for a tour and refreshments to celebrate this significant improvement to the community.

Over the past 14 months, 230 patrons, businesses, foundations and others have contributed a total of $370,979 in cash and in-kind contributions to cover the cost of design, renovation and construction that expands the size of the library by 65 percent. “We are deeply grateful to the Town of Clarksville for making this additional space available to the Library about three years ago,” said Eileen Barberi, branch librarian, “and we are humbled by the faith and generosity of so many organizations and individuals that have made this expansion possible.

“We are now able to provide to the community a brighter, spacious, comfortable, modern facility that will allow us to conduct more programs for both adults and children and a larger meeting space for groups, clubs and non-profit organizations. We hope to offer in the future a regular GED program, senior citizen recreational and education programs and more children’s events. While there are areas that still need to be enhanced and furnishings that need to be replaced, we are extremely proud of the new library.

“The response from patrons upon entering the new library has been extremely positive. Patrons have been very surprised at the new layout and cannot believe how different everything looks. In the future, we hope to have additional seating areas for patrons. We want everyone to come to the library and feel comfortable spending some time here, not just stop by to check out a book,“ said Barberi.

Early in 2013, the library established the Clarksville Area Public Library Expansion Steering Committee to help solicit the funds needed for expansion. This committee worked with library staff and architects to design the facility, and communicate with potential donors, not only in the community, but also with former residents who might contribute.

Many of the donors cited the role of the library during their early years as a reason for giving back to the library and the community. “Sadly, 91-year-old Mott Waddell, one of the most consistent supporters of the expansion, passed away two weeks before the dedication,” said Charles Lee, co-chair of the Steering Committee. “We believe he would be pleased with the result. It was also gratifying to see that the number of registered patrons has already increased. We are confident that the expanded facility will attract even more users from Clarksville and the surrounding area.”

The expanded facility will be be known as the Burnett Library and Learning Center, thanks to two anonymous donors who wished to honor the many educational and cultural contributions of former Mayor Benjamin Burnett (now deceased) and his wife Joanie Burnett, a retired teacher and longtime resident of Clarksville. Several interior parts of the facility will also be named in honor of other people as a result of generous gifts from other donors.

The term “learning center” has been added to the local library title to reflect its commitment to provide more learning opportunities by exploiting the digital information revolution.

“Computer usage has become a necessity for all generations, whether is it for homework research, on-line job applications, college courses, tax preparation, unemployment, home repair, you name it … we see it. Free public access to a computer is so important,” said Barberi. “There is already a marked increase in WI-FI usage. A new small tutoring room is also now available in addition to the larger meeting space with WI-FI available throughout the entire facility.”

The Steering Committee is deeply appreciative of the generous outpouring of support for this expansion, said committee co-chairs Pat and Charles Lee. “The committee also thanks the Library and Town staff, the Library Foundation, the engineering firm of Dewberry and Associates, and J.E. Burton Construction Company for their cooperation and commitment in bringing this project to such an exceptional conclusion. The people of this community and many former residents have worked together to make this happen because they believe this expansion can contribute to a brighter future for our youth and adults and make our community a better place to live in our rapidly changing world.”

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