The Year of the Patron: Library Lover creates new facility

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Barbara Elliott

When Barbara Elliott checks out an audiobook or peruses the newspapers at the library that overlooks downtown Lewisburg, she’s visiting a building – approaching its 10th anniversary – that she helped create.

Elliott was a member of the board of trustees for the Greenbrier County Public Library back when the library was housed in a small historic building on Courtney Drive. It was a charming facility, but without enough space for the library’s growing needs.

“There was only a very tiny area for computers, and the demand for computers was growing rapidly,” she said. “Handicapped accessibility was another big issue. The building did not have an elevator, and because it was a historic landmark, we couldn’t easily add one.” Some patrons had difficulty climbing the stairs to the non-fiction books and periodicals. “There was virtually no office or staff work space.”

The trustees considered trying to add to the existing facility, Elliott said, but “there just wasn’t enough room on that little island of land. I remember how much the trustees agonized over finding a location for the new library. It took years. We were about to despair when the property on the hill above the community college was offered to us.”

Elliott, with her background in communications, did the public relations and helped develop materials for the capital campaign for the new facility. “When I look at the beautiful library we ultimately built – on time, on budget – it seems like a small miracle.”

The new library not only offers better access to the public and better work space for staff, it also has a community room downstairs – accessible by an elevator as well as steps. Elliott noted the new room “offers a lovely space for meetings and parties.

“Because of the location and design of the building, patrons still have a sense of being in a historic setting,” she said.

It is a well used building. “I think libraries are more important than ever now,” Elliott said. “With the coming of computers and the internet there were people who thought that libraries would become obsolete.” And indeed internet access is becoming more and more a necessity. “Yet particularly in our area, there are many people who cannot afford computers and monthly internet fees. Thanks to the public access computers in the library, they can perform the many functions that require internet access.” Some jobs, for instance, can only be applied for online.

“Almost every time I visit our library, people are using the computers,” Elliott said. “But what makes me really happy is that almost every time I go to the library there also are parents helping their children check out books, and there are older patrons checking out books to read for enjoyment. Free public libraries are an amazing privilege we enjoy in this country, and I hope we never lose sight of that fact.”

Elliott is a long-time patron herself, particularly of audiobooks because of long work commutes. “I always have one going in my car, and I imagine there are some audiobooks in the library’s collection that I have listened to at least 10 times.”

When she heads up Robert W. McCormick Drive to the library, she remembers Bob McCormick, who spearheaded the capital campaign. “Bob was the president of the library trustees. Many people played a part in the campaign and in the planning for the new building, but without Bob’s leadership, we would not have the library we enjoy today.” He died of cancer before the building was completed. “But I remember that someone drove him up to the site so he could see the almost-completed building. It was gratifying to know that he got to see his dream realized.”

“It is a gracious, comfortable, welcoming place, made more so by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff,” Elliott said. “It’s a real gem.”

The Greenbrier County Public Library offers its services to the public seven days a week. The telephone number is 304-647-7568. The library also is on Facebook. The Year of the Patron is a series celebrating the 10th anniversary of the library building that opened July 20, 2007, at 152 Robert W. McCormick Drive.