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In 1912, the construction of the stately Goose Creek Carnegie Library in DeLand helped its residents to be challenged intellectually through access to books.
As it enters its second century, the library – now the Goose Creek Township Library – is in a new location, but is still poised to give patrons access to information they need through not only books, but computers and internet access.
But the decision to switch locations from the Carnegie structure to the former First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust Building in 2009 did not come easy.
“I almost jumped across the table,” said Kris Fink in describing her initial reaction to the idea of moving the library.
“I pounded my fist and said, ‘this is a Carnegie Library.’ But as we had time to think about it, and talked about it as a board, it made sense,” added Fink.
Current Board President Carol Yokley said her love for the historic Carnegie structure eventually gave way to the prohibitive $400,000 cost to renovate it, which included the need for making the building handicapped accessible.
“I love that building,” said Yokley. “I love it more that people can get in and out of here.”
At about 2,350 square feet, the new location at 220 N. Highway Ave. is actually slightly smaller than the Carnegie location, but with more modern wiring and open spaces it has allowed for increased traffic, most notably the use of six public computers.
“It’s more people friendly,” said current Librarian Melinda DelMastro. “There (old location) the shelving was inset, and you couldn’t move it around, so it was just more feasible to move here.”
The result has been a tripling of traffic at the library, which now gets about 400-500 visits per month.
It has also helped the library enter the 21st century with better internet access, which also helps the library borrow volumes from the larger Heartland Library System. DeLand is already a part of the library system’s sharing program, and most of the 584 others in Heartland will also institute online sharing in the next year.
“You can go to the internet (www.illinoisheartland.org), or come here or call me and get a book that I can’t afford or don’t have room for through this sharing program,” said DelMastro.
The library has also become a community gathering point, from its annual Halloween Party to Saturday morning coffee and donuts. DelMastro said the wide variety of services offered – even by libraries as small as the 7,000 volume Goose Creek Township Library – make her job gratifying.
“As long as the doors are open and someone walks through – no matter who that person may be – you could be helping them get a job, or helping them fulfill a commitment for work, for research, or if they just need to talk,” she said.
The new location also includes a children’s room and two accessible bathrooms. It was purchased for $1 from the bank after they closed the local branch, and a majority of the renovation was done by volunteers.
The original library building in DeLand is one of 2,509 that Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped fund between 1883 and 1929. The $8,000 that helped fund the one in DeLand came as a result of tireless efforts made to the local Woman’s Club and its president, Mrs. G.R. Trenchard.
Carnegie agreed to donate the funds if the township could stock the library with books, provide land for the building and approve a funding source through a tax referendum. Those all took place and the building was dedicated on Nov. 30, 1912.
One-hundred years to the day, the library will celebrate its first century with the open house.
The library board still owns the Carnegie building, but Yokley said the future of the brick structure has not been determined.