The Frankford Public Library broke ground for its expansion this past week after years of trying to make that dream a reality.
Distinguished guests included outgoing state Sen. George H. Bunting (D-20th) and his successor and current 38th District Rep. Gerald Hocker (R), as well as state librarian Annie Norman, and members of their board, Friends of the Frankford Public Library and builder Regional Builders.
This January, the staff at the Frankford Public Library was two steps closer to making their dream of enlarging their space a reality, with notice that they would be receiving a Longwood Foundation grant in the amount of $150,000 and a Crystal Trust grant in the amount of $50,000.
With Bunting’s help, $83,000 — which will go to the library through the Town of Frankford — was written into this year’s Bond Bill to support the expansion, as well. The State contributes up to 50 percent of construction costs and 15 percent of operating costs — something they initially had reservations about Frankford being able to sustain, said Annie Norman, state librarian.
“We had reservations about the funding, but as Liz pointed out,” said Norman of Frankford Library Director Liz Hamilton, “we shouldn’t just fund libraries in affluent areas. Libraries are the great equalizer between the haves and the have-nots and are a reflection of the community’s aspirations. Congrats to you all, and thanks to Liz for her tenacity, and congratulations to you all for achieving your dream.”
Bunting spoke of growing up in Frankford and of the importance of the library to the school children in town, many of whom can walk to the library to get books, use computers, participate in storytime, special events and reading clubs.
Hocker, who will representing the Town of Frankford in his new position as state senator for the 20th District, said that while he was not directly a part of the process up until now, he does have some history with the library.
“I was on the First National Bank of Frankford board when they donated this building under the leadership of Harry Dukes Jr. I also was part of the South Coastal Library, where we raised funds to build a 10,000-square-foot building and people asked us why we were doing that. Eleven years later, we were raising funds to double that amount,” Hocker noted, saying the future needs of Frankford being considered are a positive for the town.
Beth West, chair of the board of trustees, thanked members of the board, Bunting and Hamilton for all their help in making it a reality.
Emily Klein-Welch, chair of the Friends group, said that, as the needs of the community expand, the library should expand, as well. “I am looking forward to its completion!”
The Frankford Library was established in November 1931 and had 28 books at the time. Overdue-book fines were a penny. In 1958, the library moved to a former bank building, which is now Frankford Town Hall, and had some 5,000 books. In 1981, First National Bank donated their former building for library use, and in 2002 the library purchased the lot on Green Street.
The library’s supporters have had plans since 2003 for an expansion and, over the years, have protested the state master plan that would have had the Frankford library “absorbed” into the Selbyville or Millsboro libraries. Instead, they re-worked their expansion plans and, with the help of a new Friends of the Frankford Library group, they have evolved their plans to meet the state requirements.
As of January of this year, the library had about $200,000 in their building fund, with certificates and contributions. Hamilton said that, last year, they went to the State to see if they could build a structure smaller than the recommended 10,000 square feet for a new library — a minimum that is a near pre-requisite for State funding. They originally had a plan for that 10,000-square-foot library, but they were then told by State officials that they wouldn’t have enough money to run a library that big.
“It’s sort of a Catch 22. We had a meeting, and we said, ‘We are what we are — what do we do?’” recalled Hamilton. She explained that they had subsequently received a special dispensation to build a smaller library, with the condition that there be the capability to eventually go to 10,000 square feet, if and when they need to.
After receiving that dispensation, they then went back to the drawing board. Now, the plans call for their current 2,000 feet of space to be renovated, an additional 4,000 square feet to be built and another 4,000 square feet (which would be built as a second story) to be added later, should they need it. Complete plans and renderings are available at the library.
Funds still need to be raised. Residents and users of the library who wish to be a part of the effort can donate individually online, through PayPal. For more information on the library or how to help, visit www.frankfordlibray.org.