For the first time since opening in its current location in 2002, La Vergne Public Library is about to get some needed upgrades. New carpeting in the children’s story room and a fresh coat of paint throughout the 20,000-square-foot building on Murfreesboro Road will be seen in the next couple of months, librarian Donna Bebout said. Remaining carpets will be professionally cleaned and all tiled floors stripped and waxed. City officials approved the $35,000 upgrades in this year’s city budget. "The carpeting in the story time room will be installed in mid-August, followed by carpet cleaning," Bebout said. Neither project should disrupt patrons, as the next story time event isn’t set until late August and the carpet cleaning will occur after closing time on Saturday and on Sunday. The library may have to close for a couple of days for painting, but there is no date for that yet. Officials will announce any closing dates well in advance.
The interior upgrades come on the heels of some unexpected roof repairs following a strong thunderstorm in June. After paying the deductible, insurance covered the roof project. "The roof was actually in better shape than we thought," Bebout said.
The hub of the community
Few if any would argue the importance of maintaining the library, which is widely regarded as a hub of the community. "We've pulled ourselves into the 21st century," Bebout said. "The library has become more of a meetup place. It’s a hub for people to meet and socialize and learn."
On any given day, the library hosts events for children, teens, adults or seniors in everything from craft-making to coloring to puppet shows. The library’s summer reading program, which just wrapped up, saw 1,089 participants, including 326 adults. "We’re always trying to come up with new ways to encourage people to come in and use the library," Bebout said.
Staff relocated and revamped the library’s teen center earlier this year, moving it into the old genealogy room. "We are seeing the teens enjoying being in their own space," Bebout said. Genealogy services are still available elsewhere in the library.
The library also includes 23 internet-ready computers for patrons, copy and fax machine, die-cutting and laminating machines, a teacher center, and help for homeschooling.
Books, books and more books
Today’s library boasts more than 78,000 items, most of which are print books, but also includes audio books, ebooks, DVDs and more. "We’ve probably doubled the number of books since 2002," Bebout said. New books are ordered at least once a week and often arrive the same day books are available at the book store. Many books are requests from readers, while others are picked by Bebout and staff after reviewing what’s available from Ingram and other vendors. "We look as a whole to see where we may have gaps," Bebout added. Reader requests can generally be honored in under two weeks.
The city’s book budget is divided up among adult fiction and nonfiction, young adult and children’s books. When possible, the library tries to obtain multiple copies of particularly popular novels, like just about anything by James Patterson or JK Rowling. The library even markets itself like a book store. New releases have their own section and are turned with the covers facing out, like they would be at a book store. "We would love to have a coffee shop in here," Bebout added.
Freedom to choose
The library has come a long way since Faye Toombs started it in a closet in City Hall with about 50 books, mirroring the growth of the community itself. From there, the library moved into a small white house, then to the former codes building in front of City Hall, and finally to its current location at 5063 Murfreesboro Road in 2002. Rutherford County aided in construction of the facility, but the library remains independent from the county’s Linebaugh Library System. "Everything we have is bought by La Vergne Public Library. All of our revenues from fines, fees, donations, faxing, and so on go back into our general fund," Bebout said. "The city provides us a really good budget to purchase new books and run the library."
As an independent library, Bebout and her staff are able to make purchases and decisions that more accurately reflect the needs of the community. "We have the freedom to purchase the books we need to purchase," she said. "If we were a branch of Linebaugh, it would take away from what the community needs. We would lose our library board and local control."
That’s not to say the library doesn’t work closely with or benefit from the Linebaugh system. "(Linebaugh Director) Rita Shacklett and I get along really well. We work together all the time," Bebout said. "We go to conferences together and we communicate to let them know when our library is closed so that they know to expect an increase in patrons. "For our community, this is the best thing."
By G. Robert Frazier
La Vergne Public Library is located at 5063 Murfreesboro Road, next door to La Vergne City Hall. The library is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.