Have you visited the Bondurant Community Library (BCL) lately? Gone are the old card catalogs with the Dewey Decimal System, librarians constantly telling you to “Shhh!” and rows and rows of dusty, outdated books. Today’s vibrant library is an informational hub, featuring access to the latest and greatest databases, classes for lifelong learning and wellness, hangout spots for people of all ages and newly released bestsellers.
When asked how libraries have changed over the last 10 to 20 years, Jill Sanders, BCL director, states, “Libraries have largely gone away from being those quiet repositories and become the community centers of their communities.”
Once upon a time
Bondurant’s first library building didn’t open its doors until 1977, but two longtime residents remember receiving library-type services long before that date.
Phyllis McIntosh (85) says, “When I was a kid, we went to this house on Railroad Street to listen to a lady read stories to us,” says Phyllis McIntosh, 85. “After story time, we went to the back of the building where they had a little basketball hoop, and we played basketball. As a kid, we thought that place was so big. It isn’t really, but it’s all we had.”
She explains that the building is still standing. If you turn east onto Railroad Street N.E., off of Lincoln Street N.E., it’s the second house on the south side of the road. McIntosh adds that once upon a time her aunt, Rebecca Frakes, even lived in the long, narrow home.
Janis Johnson remembers when the Bookmobile came to town in the 1960s.
“I’ve lived in Bondurant forever,” she says. “There wasn’t a library in town when I was young, but a Bookmobile came through in the summertime. It was a big bus with stacks of library books on shelves. It was so much fun to check out books. I don’t remember the exact years, maybe 1963-1965. It was such a thrill.”
Three different buildings
It was June of 1976 when Margaret and Lloyd Elson donated a small one-story brick building to the city, specifying it should become a library. The 40-year-old building at 105 Main St. S.E. formerly served as a barbershop, a post office and a machine shop before a major remodel turned it into a cozy place to check out books.
The newly appointed Bondurant Library Board, the Bondurant Community Betterment Committee and many other community organizations and residents rallied to make the dream of a library a reality. Volunteers generously donated and/or installed a new roof and ceiling, rewired the building, reframed the bathroom and installed paneling, carpeting, a furnace, fixtures, plumbing, an exhaust fan and insulation. Others donated cash, furniture and hundreds of books, which volunteers cataloged.
On Dec. 12, 1976, the library board held an open house, kicking off a fundraising campaign. Various Bondurant organizations sold raffle tickets with the proceeds benefitting the new library. Two local farmers donated a side of beef and a side of pork — processing and packaging included — to the lucky first prize winner and a side of pork to the second place recipient. The raffle raised $2,400.
The library board hired Beth Clayton as the first librarian, and the Bondurant Community Library threw open its doors on June 15, 1977. Patrons checked out a whopping 4,180 books the first year. The number climbed to 11,961 by 1983, with 5,300 books lining the shelves. The library also boasted a 16mm projector, an adding machine, a children’s record player and various magazines for patron enjoyment.
During the next 22 years, people visited the library for all sorts of reasons — to check out books, work on research papers, participate in special programs and attend story hour. The library evolved with the times, and computers were introduced for checking out books, cataloging and patron usage. Clayton retired in 1998 after serving for 20 years, and the library board hired Mary Lynn Carvour as her replacement.
As Bondurant grew, the little library started to burst at the seams. Books were piled on the floor and stacked to the ceiling. To better meet the growing community’s needs, the city leased a bigger building located at 17 Main St. N.E., just a couple doors down from the original site. Again, local residents readily volunteered, packing books into boxes and carrying them to the new library, which opened in early 1999.
The 1,920-square-foot building more than doubled the old location’s footage. The new digs permitted more programming, more storage space and more shelving for books. While the library’s new larger home was a vast improvement, the city viewed it as a stop-gap measure.
In 2002, Karen Pederson stepped in as the next library director. A new computer system was added and library hours were increased, upping library traffic and the number of books checked out each week. The library received state accreditation in 2003.
Four years later, on March 13, 2007, Bondurant passed a $2.3 million bond referendum to build a community library, along with a public safety facility. In December 2008, work was completed on the new library at 104 Second St. N.E. The beautiful brick library tripled in size. Highlights include a large community room, a fireplace, an expanded kids’ area, teen space, an outdoor patio and a coffee bar.
Cool things to do at BCL
While plenty of people still visit the library to simply check out books, many others go to borrow the latest movies, CDs, backpack kits and magazines. They also hop on one of the 10 computers, join an adult book discussion and take classes. Kids enjoy summer reading programs and teens stop in to play Wii games and Xbox. If someone needs a quiet space to study, read, write or do whatever, that’s always available, too.
According to Sanders, the library director since 2013, people stop by the library on a daily basis for all sorts of reasons.
“It really is a mix of all thing,” Sanders says. “Yes, many are coming in to get materials (books, movies, audio), but we serve many each day with copying, faxing, scanning and printing services. Computer usage, especially Wi-Fi, has steadily increased. This past year, the library has increased its bandwidth and done an upgrade on computer equipment. Both are vastly improved.”
When asked about the library’s best kept secret, Sanders states the online services, which include e-books and downloadable audio books through the WILBOR database, top the list. Additional free online databases and services include Zinio (magazines), EBSCO Host (a reference resource), Freegal (downloadable music), TumbleBooks (children’s books), Learning Express (career and academic resources), Reference USA (business and residential research reference) and LibriVox and Project Gutenberg (public domain books).
Can’t find a particular book you’re dying to read at the BCL? Talk to a librarian about an interlibrary loan. Need the answer to a question that has you stumped? Call 967-4790 during the library’s open hours, and someone will help you find the answer. You can also email reference questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the “Ask a Librarian” link at the bottom of the webpage.
In addition to Sanders, the current library staff includes assistant director Jenny Campbell, adult services librarian) Shelley Kesling, teen librarian Marilyn O’Brien and children’s librarian Margaret Christian.
Time to check it out
To best meet the community’s future library needs, the Bondurant Community Library Board of Trustees plans to update its long range plan in 2015. According to Sanders, community members are encouraged to contact board members to submit relevant ideas and opinions regarding the library’s future. For a complete listing of board members’ names, go to www.bondurant.lib.ia.us.
While we look to the future, we don’t want to forget about Bondurant’s rich past. Approximately seven months ago, Campbell began organizing and cataloging Bondurant’s historical material. Designated shelving now features historical books, photographs, essays, fair ribbons, newspaper clippings, service club meeting minutes and more.
“Patrons come in and ask, ‘Would you want these items?’ I take whatever they want to give me,” Campbell says. “Someone just brought in old, old schoolbooks from somebody’s attic. We have an old yearbook from the ’30s or ’40s. We’re always accepting pictures that are historically significant to the town. I’m happy to copy photographs, so people can keep their originals.”
It took a true community effort to open Bondurant’s first library back in 1977. No wonder it’s called a community library. Bondurant still rallies around its library 38 years later. Many patrons continue to value print books and the personal connection with library staff, while others appreciate easy access to the library’s new digital resources and expanded programming. The library offers something for everyone, and if you haven’t done so in a while, it’s definitely time to check out the BCL.