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It was a surprise.

And something that should benefit not only current but future generations of patrons at Keene Memorial Library.

Last week, the Fremont library received a gift of more than $75,000 from the estate of the late Betty Lou H. Jelinek.

“This was a very unexpected gift and having it come at the holiday season is very heartwarming,” said Tina Walker, library director.

The funds, donated to the Friends of Keene Memorial Library’s A Trust, will go toward the library’s expansion project — estimated to cost between $10 million and $12 million.

“This will help us with moving forward with our project. It will be added to the funds that the A Trust and the Friends have already accumulated,” Walker said.

The library expansion project will be funded mostly through private donations and grants with the $2 million bond issue — approved by voters in May — helping to act as matching funds for the grants.

With the bond issue and donations, the Friends group has about $3,200,000 so far, Walker said.

Another $2 million to $3 million will be needed to put funds at the halfway mark of the $10 to $12 million project.

The rest of the $2 million to $3 million will come from private donations and the last 50 percent hopefully will come from grant money, she said.

Jelinek, who was at Nye Legacy in Fremont, was among readers there who benefit from a library outreach program.

Through this program, Elisa Cruz, circulation manager and adult services librarian, and Ann Hoppe, a library assistant 3, take books to various centers.

Walker said the two began conducting an adult storytime and have a poetry reading and discussion at a couple of care centers.

People of all ages can benefit from library services including future generations.

Walker points out famous individuals who were greatly helped by going to a library as children and youth.

“My best example is Warren Buffett,” Walker said. “He always makes comments about ‘He is who he is today,’ because he spent the majority of his life in libraries when he was younger,” Walker said.

She points to a quote in which the influential billionaire businessman, investor and speaker said he started reading about investing when he was 7 years old.

By the time he was 12, Buffett had read every book in the Omaha Public Library on investing and the stock market.

Noted authors such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz also are very supportive of libraries, Walker said.

Walker has outlined the need for local library expansion. A few reasons include:

• The library is at maximum capacity for the physical materials.

• The library wants to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for entryways, restrooms and the elevator.

• The current building needs updating on electrical, structural, plumbing and flooring.

• The library’s auditorium is no longer big enough to support programming needs.

• There is not a separation between the children, young adult and adult sections.

• There are numerous issues with sound and noise.

Walker believes expanding the library is important.

“We have outgrown the size of the building,” Walker said. “As the community changes and our services change, our need for physical space changes,” Walker said.

Community meeting rooms are essential for businesses to host educational events. The library will be able to provide more programming and services such as additional classes for technology, more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and bring in more partnerships for community services such as Work Force Development, she said.

The project involves extending the current building to the east with a two-story expansion.

“We will be demolishing the small annex and the house the Trust currently owns,” Walker said. “This also means the current library will be completely remodeled as the new and old become one large library.”

Architects have designed a structure that melds together for safety and security purposes and ease of use for patrons, based on the community feedback they received.

“In the end, we will have a space for everyone to call their own — children, teens, and adults,” Walker said. “We will also have many study rooms and large community meeting rooms to accommodate more requests for meeting space. These spaces will also have state-of-the-art technology for presentations.

“The expansion will also include a catering kitchen to offer lunch-n-learns and other events.”

Walker said the number of parking spaces will increase and the library’s front entrance will not have stairs.

The library director has been working on a website with information and photos about the project which is available by visiting: https://kmlexpansion.wordpress.com

Website information states that the current library at 1030 N. Broad St., opened in 1971 and was built when Fremont’s population was 23,000.

Fremont’s last census showed a population of 26,500 people.

“The actual service area of the library could be as high as 36,600, or the population of Dodge County, because so many county residents pay for nonresident cards each year,” the website states.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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