Blakesburg Public Library

Friends Blakesburg Public Library (BPL) is working on plans to turn a former auto repair shop into a new library. This is the future library. The current BPL is located inside of Blakesburg Elementary. The library just earned state accreditation.

Chiara Elena Romero | Courier Staff Writer

BLAKESBURG — For several years Blakesburg Public Library Director Cheryl Talbert worked toward her vision to turn a former auto repair shop into a new library.

Talbert and Friends of BPL bought the building in 2017. Since then they have organized fundraisers, written grant requests, hired a contractor and, finally, had some construction workers begin renovating.

The goal, Talbert said, is to have the entire library completed by 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic put fundraising on hold and may derail that timeline.

“Without the fundraising, without the money, we can’t finish the project,” Talbert said. “We would love to be in there by the fall of 2021. Whether it happens or not depends on grants and fundraising and getting the work done. All these months of no fundraising — it does take a toll.

“We’ll continue to do it again [fundraising] once the COVID-19 [stops],” Talbert added. “Right now nobody can do anything. You can’t get groups together, so no trivia night, no dinners, nothing right now. So fundraisers — we’re basically relying on donations at this point.”

FOBPL recently received a $25,000 grant from the Legacy Foundation, but it won’t be enough to cover the total costs for phase two. Still, work continues. Construction is being done and grant writing hasn’t stopped either.

“The sooner we can raise the funds and get more done, the less it’s going to cost overall,” Talbert said, “because … the price of everything keeps going up. We bought the building in November of 2017 and we actually got some work going in 2020. So it took us three years to do the fundraising, grant writing and all that after we actually owned the building.”

Why did it take three years to finally get the construction started?

“I think a lot of people didn’t want to give money because they just saw that building sitting there,” she said. “Now that they’ve seen some work actually start and can envision it, maybe they’re going to be more likely to want to donate because they’re going to see what it’s going to be like … now they’re going to see what it’s going to be and the possibilities that are there.”

And with the new library, Talbert, wants to be able to give Blakesburg residents “the possibilities to expand their minds” through the different programs and opportunities that will be available.

“We really just want the community to have a good library,” she said. “Just because we’re a small town, less than 300 people, and we don’t have a lot of money — doesn’t mean we can’t provide good service. We want our people to have the same types of services and access to information that anybody else is going to have.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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