The building housing the Bellwood-Antis Public Library is starting to show its age, said Jessica Ford Cameron, one of the library’s principals, but plans are underway for large-scale renovations which are expected to be completed in the coming months. next five years.
The library received $5,250 in grants from the Keystone Library on Wednesday, and Cameron said the money will be used to get a professional recommendation on which items should be addressed first.
“The most pressing problem is the roof”, Cameron said, noting that the building was constructed over 40 years ago. An extension was added in 2007, she said, and that roof appears to be in good condition.
The library launched a fundraising campaign for the roof replacement on February 16, when M&T Bank donated $5,000. The campaign is called “300 for 300” Cameron said, because the goal is to get 300 different businesses, individuals, families, civic and social clubs and others to donate $300 each towards a goal of $90,000. So far, the campaign has raised $7,750.
The Keystone Library Grant is a 50% matching grant and can be used in the planning, acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of public libraries, according to a press release from the state Department of Education.
Bankable projects include rooftops, Cameron said. According to the press release, other projects may include ADA upgrades, replacement windows, energy-efficient HVAC system upgrades, facility expansions and new construction.
Nearly $5.3 million in funding has been awarded to 21 libraries in 17 counties for the construction and rehabilitation of public library facilities, the Department of Education said in the release.
“Public libraries are an essential part of the community – they help residents access essential services, resources and programs, from educational materials to broadband,” Education Secretary Noe Ortega said. “This year’s series of Keystone Library grants will help Pennsylvania libraries improve their facilities and operations to better serve visitors and patrons.
The only other area library to receive a Keystone grant was the Cambria County Library, which is expected to receive $364,100.
This grant will be used to replace the HVAC system on the third floor of the library, said Ashley Flynn, director of the library.
The Library Building, at 248 Main St., Johnstown, serves as the system headquarters for the Cambria County Library System, which includes 14 libraries, and the District Library Center for the Johnstown District, which includes the Cambria, Indiana and Somerset counties, Flynn said. .
While roofing projects and HVAC systems “aren’t sexy” Flynn said they were needed to protect not only the books and computers the public depended on, but also historically valuable collections.
Because the building turned 50 in October, the library has done a lot of fundraising and other grant applications over the past year.
“We have a long list of building upgrades,” she says.
Replacing the HVAC system on the third floor is a priority due to the unique historical and rare items stored there. Public computers, adult fiction and non-fiction sections, and the microfilm collection are also on this floor, she said.
The remodeled system will reduce humidity, always a factor with books and paper records, and protect what may be Cambria County’s most important historic asset – the Tribune Democrat’s microfilm collection dating back to 1853. Some of the The collection’s microfilms are the only known ones that exist, she said.
“We really appreciate the support from the community to raise the money to make the game” for the grant, Flynn said. “It’s hard to get funding for these kinds of projects. People don’t get excited about them like they do kids shows or other stuff.
As libraries strive to extend the life of their buildings, they are also considering welcoming the public back to pre-COVID levels.
“We still haven’t recovered the number of people, but all services and schedules have returned to normal”, Flynn said of the Cambria Library.
At Bellwood-Antis, Cameron said the library has been fully open for just over a year now, but has yet to resume all normal programming.
“It was a very strange time for libraries,” she said, adding that she hopes by the end of spring “we will return to normal.”
Bellwood Antis “feels like a normal library,” she says.
As COVID-19 cases continue to drop, Cameron is considering bringing back children’s programming, something that was halted because the young children it’s aimed at can’t be vaccinated.
“We haven’t had story time at the library for the kids in two years…it breaks my heart,” she says. “I am cautiously optimistic that this time will be different.”