WELLSBURG — Alex Schneider, director of the Brooke County Public Library, noted Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”
She and other library staff, supporters and patrons gathered Saturday to celebrate the 50 years the Brooke County Library has provided unmeasurable amounts of information and entertainment at its present location at 945 Main St.
Schneider noted the library’s history dates to 1897 and is a testament to the perseverance of the many citizens who were dedicated to its mission.
She noted Wellsburg’s first library operated in a local Methodist church but it would move several times before the current building was constructed in 1972.
One of those locations, the Gus Hall building at 716 Main St., lost its collection to the flood of 1936, said Schneider.
She said a local woman, Ethel Charnock, worked to revive the library with the help of local civic groups, students and Wellsburg City Council, which provided a rent-free room on the second floor of City Hall for a new library that opened in 1941 with 1,127 books.
Schneider said Charnock oversaw the library until 1956, leaving it with 3,340 books.
The library had been operating at 722 Main St. since 1956 when the decision was made to construct the current building using county funds and a bequest from Celeste Worthen Paull.
Photos of local students carrying books from that site to the new library, accompanied by the Brooke High School Pep Band, were included in many scrapbooks of news clippings and other mementos displayed at the library on Saturday.
Schneid noted that since then, the library underwent two major expansions: The Givens Ennis Wing and a children’s room in 2012 and the addition of 4,000 square feet for a new meeting room and space for the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum and Education Center in 2018.
Richard Lizza, president of the museum’s board, said, “The museum is very proud to share facilities with the library and congratulates the library board, director and all others behind it on its anniversary.”
Believed to be the largest collection of materials related to the experiences of World War II veterans who defended the Philippine Islands, the museum had begun as an exhibit created by Ed and Henrietta Jackfert in the Givens Ennis Wing.
The wing was named for then state Delegates Tim Ennis and the late Roy Givens.
Now a Brooke County commissioner, Ennis said Givens deserves most of the credit for securing $400,000 from the state budget digest for that addition.
He added the demonstration of community support through local contributions raised by the library “were really what allowed him to secure that.”
Over time, there wasn’t sufficient space in the wing to accommodate the hundreds of artifacts donated by veterans from throughout the country. In 2018, the Hubbard and Meriwether families donated $500,000 for a 4,000-square-foot addition that allowed the museum and library to expand.
Schneider said through the years the library also has grown to include more than 40,000 books and other materials as well as computers, Kindles available for checkout and other modern equipment.
She credited predecessors Delores Antigo and Mary Kay Wallace for bringing computers into the building, noting they have been used by many students, job hunters and others doing research.
Wallace, one of many attending the celebration, recalled arranging for Internet wiring to be installed and holding classes to familiarize patrons with the new computers.
Asked what she thought of the most recent addition, Wallace said, “I think it’s just wonderful. I’m very, very impressed.”
She joined others in recognizing Ruth Lewis, a retired West Liberty State College professor who has headed the library’s board of trustees and served its fundraising foundation and Friends of the Library support group for many years.
She noted the public support that has kept the library operating and growing through the years.
Asked if she expected the most recent addition, Lewis said, “No, actually, I don’t think I did. I thought the Givens Ennis Wing might be the end of it.”
Asked whether any further expansion may be in the future, she said, “I think the growth will be in our programmes. Boy, they have expanded in that. I’m amazed by what Alex and Kim (Harless, the library’s educational programs director) have accomplished in programming.”
Schneider said Harless has begun planning the library’s summer reading program, which in recent years has been expanded to two months and to include adults.
Harless noted an app is now available for young and adult readers to log the number of books or minutes they have read, making them eligible for various prizes.
Visitors Saturday were invited to view a video tour of Wellsburg produced in the early 1990s by local disc jockeys Ron Music and Chris Knicely while younger patrons could participate in various activities or hear a story read by a library board member.
Asked what he enjoys about the library, 7-year-old Cooper Hardsouk of Follansbee said he likes using the 3D pens sometimes used in library programs, the movies shown there and its books.
Cori Dwyer of West Liberty is among parents who bring their children to the library regularly.
As she watched her daughters working on a craft, she said, “We love doing crafts and getting books and movies from the library.”
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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