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Berks library shows off major expansion and renovation

Before beginning the children’s programs at the Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library, the staff would need to go on critter duty.

They would bang a broom handle into the ceiling tiles, chasing away the squirrels that lived up there so their chittering and running back and forth didn’t distract the youngsters.

Removing birds, mice and other wildlife was also a regular part of life in the small, deteriorated library.

But on Monday during a grand reopening ceremony, the library showed off the results of its recently completed renovation and expansion, which has transformed the building just off Interstate 78 in Bethel Township.

The library, which was a shuttered Shell gas station before it opened as a library in 1977, has in the last year or so grown from 1,500 square feet to 8,000 square feet.

It added a children’s section with a Lego wall, more adult computers, a teen area and a lot more room for books, programs and people. It also has many more windows and is a much nicer, brighter space for the patrons from Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon counties who frequent it, staff said.

And now the only animals that will be in the building are those brought in by the man who presents a reptile show as part of the summer reading program, library co-director Kaitlin Lehman said.

The Bethel-Tulpehocken Library had a grand reopening Monday following extensive renovations. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library had a grand reopening Monday following extensive renovations. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Filling community’s needs

The change is so drastic that several children who came in recently were confused, she said. They asked their parents why there weren’t visiting their regular library, not recognizing that it’s the same building.

The staff is equally taken aback by the improvements, which were mostly finished in March, she said.

“Every day that we come in is a surprise at how much better it is here now,” she said.

When Lehman joined the staff in 2014 the project planning and fundraising had already begun.

But it was difficult to raise enough money to pay for the work, which made for a long process.

The building is owned by Bethel Township, supported by Bethel and Tulpehocken townships and is part of the Berks County Public Library system.

Bethel put $1.3 million toward the project, and other funds came from a $500,000 state grant, a $100,000 contribution from the Kurr Foundation, library savings and public donations, which the library still needs, Lehman said. Tulpehocken bought the digital sign now in front of the library.

What makes the project’s long-awaited completion such a big deal is that there are not a lot of other public spaces or programs in Bethel Township, said Betsy Kreider, co-director and children’s librarian.

The library helps fill those needs with its many materials available to borrow, its public computers, its comfortable gathering space and its frequent and free programs for children, teens and adults, she said.

The library remained open throughout the project, which is a credit to the staff, Lehman said

Most of them have worked there for many years, which speaks to their loyalty and dedication to the library’s mission and to the friendly atmosphere the facility has long provided, she said.

Now, however, that good work is being done in a much better building, she said.

Among those who appreciate the improvements are Emily High of Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, who now brings her two home-schooled children, Danielle, 14, and Isaac, 10, to the facility once a week so they can experience a different learning space.

On Monday, Emily was there helping Isaac with multiplication, and he spoke about how much he likes the added space and new books.

“Having the space to study here now is huge for us,” Emily said. “It’s a game-changer.”

The newly renovated community room will host a number of activities in the Bethel-Tulpehocken Library, which had a grand reopening Monday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The newly renovated community room will host a number of activities in the Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library, which had a grand reopening Monday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Also impressed was Audrey Kline of Upper Tulpehocken Township, who decades ago began bringing her daughter to the library.

Her granddaughter Lily Kline of Hamburg is a first-grader who enjoys the summer children’s programs at the library, and Audrey is looking forward to bringing her to the improved space.

There is a lot to like about the building now, she said, including that you no longer have to walk through the bathrooms to get to the story-time room.

“My granddaughter always loved the programs,” she said, “but now it’s beautiful here.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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