At the Frankford Public Library, tons of resources and information is packed into a pretty small space. And while Frankford itself is a small town, the 19945 ZIP code and the number of people who identify their home as Frankford are quite large — and growing. So, the need for a bigger space for the library seemed inevitable.
The Frankford Public Library, which was started with a $100 grant from the State of Delaware and a 28-book collection, was established in 1931 and was originally housed in a small building that had been occupied by a tinsmith.
They have been in their current Main Street location since 1981, after the First National Bank of Frankford donated the building to the independent library, which is not owned by Sussex County but receives some funding from county coffers.
Recently, the library applied to the Town of Frankford for rezoning of an adjacent parcel, which would be combined with the existing library property for its expansion, and they sent out surveys to gauge public interest in expanding the library and its services. They officially kicked off their fundraising efforts for the 4,000-square-foot addition and renovations to their existing 2,000-square feet this May.
“If we build four [thousand square feet], that’ll be six, and then if we build four more, that’ll be ten,” explained Library Director Liz Hamilton.
She said that last year they went to the state to see if they could build less than the recommended 10,000 square feet, because they originally had a plan for a 10,000-square-foot library, but they had been told by the state that they wouldn’t have enough money to run a library that big.
“We had a meeting, and we said, ‘We are what we are — what do we do?’ recalled Hamilton. She explained that they 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.
They then went back to the drawing board. Now, the plans call for their current 2,000 feet 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) should they need it. The front door of the building would move to Green Street. There would be added parking, and on Main Street — where the front entrance is currently located — there would most likely be an emergency exit. (Complete plans and renderings are available at the library.)
Between the State contribution of $25,000 for more planning, and their own fundraising efforts, they have raised $180,000 of the needed $600,000.
They have applied to the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation and the Crystal Trust for more grants. They have plans to ask the Town and the County for donations, as well, and were scheduled to meet with the State Advisory Committee on Sept. 1 to report what they have raised so far.
Hamilton said it is possible the State could give the library up to $215,000, or 40 percent of the needed amount – something she is hoping will be a reality because of the unspoken benefit of gaining State support.
“When the State funds you, then everybody else knows it is a project that is going to happen,” she said.
Residents and users of the library who wish to be a part of the effort can donate individually online, through PayPal.
Programs at the library include their summer reading program, adult and teen book clubs, and tot time for preschoolers. They also employ a Spanish-speaking coordinator who helps Spanish-speaking residents with their needs in the community and host ESL classes, alongside St. Ann’s Catholic Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Ann’s mission church.
This past year, the library welcomed 200 people to their annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, held outdoors – something Hamilton said was great, considering they wouldn’t have been able to fit everyone inside.
“We are finally growing!” she said, adding that, while small, they have always played an active part in the community. She noted that, although there are only about 1,000 residents in Frankford, the number of people in the library’s service area is about 8,000, according to the 2010 census.
The Frankford Public Library is located at 8 Main Street in Frankford. For more information, call (302) 732-9351 or visit the Web site at frankfordlibrary.org to donate online to the building fund.