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Library exists to serve community

by Annette Beard | April 25, 2023 at 11:25 a.m.

"Our library is very important to our community," stated Mayor Nathan See this past March when introducing plans to change the governance of the library.

With a long history of service to the community, the Pea Ridge Community Library has served the residents of the area in many ways, including offering internet and computer services as technology advanced.

"Obviously it provides a place for our residents who have no capability for broadband or internet," See said. "It's structured to be a hub for people to come, for relationships and events ... we will be more focused on community events and building relationships at the library."

"I want to have the library be a core factor in building relationships and community within our community," See told city officials adding that it should be used as a hub to get information to the public including important documentation and providing a way for area residents to be able to sign up for BCAlert, learning new resources, receive help with Excel and Microsoft Outlook.

"The community room will be for the community and will be accessible for the community to use for community events and be able to host parties and special trainings. The taxpayers paid for that to be done," he said, explaining that was the intention for the addition of that room -- to allow the taxpayers to use it to replace the community room at the fire station."

In March, city officials approved an ordinance abolishing the library board and establishing the library as a department of the city.

"I want to make it more accessible to more people with this change," See said.

"All the policies will have to come back through City Council," See explained, adding that of the first tasks of the new librarian will be to "vet the policies to make sure they ... serve community first."

"We have to be intentional about the audience we want to attract to the library," See said.

"I think the library can be a place not only library grants, but the librarian could help write grants for all city departments," he said.

The library is funded by tax revenues that are governed by the City Council.

See said the library director will answer to the City Council, as do other department heads

Begun by volunteers

The Pea Ridge Community Library begun as an initiative by several people in the community in the mid-1970s, and became a part of the city in 1980.

In a newspaper column written in 2015 by then librarian Peggy Maddox, she refered to old files she found naming Maxine Morrison, Carrie Wright, the Rev. Bob Richardson, Fred McKinney and Jane Cooley to the first library board in September 1974.

According to the old files to which Maddox referred, in 1975, there were 269 patrons with library cards. By 2015, there were 4,424 cards issued.

Jane Cooley recalled that the Rev. Richardson had a lot of books and thought a library to share the books with others might be beneficial. Cooley said Maxine Morrison was "totally the instigator. She was a school teacher, of course, and she was totally motivated."

Cooley said they began asking for donations and the project spread like "wildfire."

She said the library started in Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church and people soon began coming in to borrow books.

"It pleased Maxine so! She loved it!" Cooley said.

Later, after the Bank of Pea Ridge moved out of the downtown location, the library was moved into that building.

Maddox said funds were raised to purchase the old bank building and they held an open house in 1975.

"We started building shelves. Pauline Boepple was the first librarian," she said. "It was all volunteer."

In 1976, Pauline Boepple was hired as the librarian.

Linda Whitaker and then Peggy Maddox served as librarians.

Established by city

In 1980, the city adopted an ordinance establishing the library and creating a board of trustees. City ordinances affecting the library include:

Ord. 93, adopted Jan. 10, 1980;

Ord. 621, adopted Oct. 16, 2018; and

Ord. 189 adopted March 21, 2023.

The original ordinance was to "create and estabish the Pea Ridge Community Library, to provide for the appointment of a board of trustees, to prescribe their powers and duties, method of appointment and terms of office and for other purposes."

The members of the board were to be appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council.

In 1980, the board consisted of Merlene Dryden, Judy Wilkerson, Fred McKinney, Mabel Hardy and Penny Wimmer.

In 2011, the library moved to the current location when Mercy Health Systems donated the building to the city.

The ordinance adopted this year abolished the library board of trustees and established the library as a department of the city.

Volunteers still help

Maddox, who had volunteered with Whitaker, said she was hired as librarian in 2012 and said Cinda Woolridge and her husband Darrell volunteered.

She said it grew "by leaps and bounds."

"My son got computers donated," she recalled and said her sons came and installed the computers in the library.

"I loved it. It was the best thing that ever happened to me," Maddox said about the library and the help from the Woolridges. "I felt like that library was there for everybody. We wanted to make it comfortable for them. It was just some place to get together. There were so many peope who would just come in and chat."

New librarian

Wendy Martin was hired by the city as the new library director. She was to begin March 27.

Martin, of Pea Ridge, is the wife of the Pea Ridge School District superintendent, Keith Martin.

She has a masters of science degree in library media and information technology that she earned at the University of Central Arkansas. Her bachelor's degree, also from UCA, was in education.

She filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Alex Wright who had served the previous seven years.

According to the information provided by Wright for the State of the City address, in 2022, there were 460 new patrons added to the library and 186 temporary/digital cards created. There were 1,314 circulation items added and a total of 13,698 checkouts. There were 10,953 total visits to the library.

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