The Rhome Public Library boasts the most comprehensive South Wise history collection in the area, thanks to the efforts of library board member Bill Childress.
Childress maintains a collection of photos dating from 1854 through the present, documenting life in southern Wise County. The people and places in each photo are identified on the back, and they are all neatly organized in binders.
This is just one example of the hours spent by a volunteer dedicated to the Rhome library. Unfortunately, the availability of these documents as well as others may be threatened if the library is unable to construct a new building.
Rent on the current library, at 265 BC Rhome Ave., will double the first of September and is expected to quadruple by December, according to library board president Janice Wilson.
The library can’t afford to stay at this location, and the rate hike pushed board members to move forward with a campaign to raise money for a new building.
The library already owns a lot at Logan and Main Streets, and although they have a building fund started, they need to raise approximately $240,000 for the project.
Wilson said the board hopes to raise enough money to construct a new building and later establish an endowment fund to maintain it and help with operating costs.
“We’ve got to build it,” said Wilson. “It needs a permanent home.”
The library is located in one of the fastest growing parts of Wise County, but space and resources are limited in their current, 2,000-square-foot building.
The only funding it receives is from the county – $19,747 annually – in addition to whatever donations may come in.
The problem is, “We can’t even draw (patrons) here,” said Childress, despite offering a variety of services.
The library has a fiction and non-fiction collection, as well as a good-sized children’s collection. The children’s room is furnished with small tables and chairs and every Saturday they host a movie day. Librarian Linda Gillespie plans special events for holidays and other special literary days like Dr. Seuss’ birthday. They also offer storytimes for young children.
Gillespie said the library was recently awarded a grant from the Priddy Foundation for $1,000 in audiobooks. They also have four computers available for public use, as well as fax and copy machines.
“We try to utilize everything we can,” she said.
Since it was founded in 1960, the facility has moved several times. Wilson is worried what might happen if the library doesn’t move into its own building soon.
She estimates the library could operate only two more years without having to dip into the funds currently in its building fund.
“We’re looking and begging and praying for a lot of money,” said Wilson.
The board plans to post flyers, send letters to residents and solicit corporate sponsors as part of its fundraising campaign. Wilson also noted that since the library is non-profit, donations are tax-deductible.
Board members said a library Facebook page is in the works, and they’re hoping to update the website soon. Gillespie said if they are able to move into a new building, they would expand their services and hours. They are currently open 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Board members said the library promotes literacy in the community, and they hope it can become central to citizens’ everyday lives.
“We want it to be not just a building that holds books but that lives in the community,” said board secretary Susan Pepper.
To donate to the Rhome library building fund, call Wilson at 940-577-2266 or call the library at 817-636-2767. You can also bring donations to the library.