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New library requires funding

Work is ongoing to secure necessary funds to make Russellville’s new public library a reality.

It’s been right at a year since the Norris family donated a piece of downtown property to the city to build a new library.

The site is located directly behind Russellville City Hall. Under the terms of the donation, the city has five years to build a new library on the property, with an option for a five-year extension depending on the success of funding efforts.

Russellville Public Library has been in its current location, the intersection of Lawrence Street and Coffee Avenue, since 1994.

Mayor David Grissom said the city is still trying to figure out how to fund the library. He noted the first estimate was about $2 million, but that was “before materials prices went up.” He said a new estimate will be needed because of the impact of COVID-19.

One possible funding source is through the American Rescue Plan.

“I have talked with NACOLG about grant possibilities,” said Grissom. “There are two potential grants that would total around $500,000, but that would only account for a portion of the required funding. It might be possible to qualify under some of the COVID relief grants to help with fundraising efforts.”

Grissom said plans will need to be made to account for the rest of the required money. As for the timeline, he said it will likely be “a while still.”

He noted one expenditure is the need for a demolition grant to remove the old house on the property.

“I’ve spoken to Gwen Shelton, Sen. Tuberville’s aide,” said Grissom, “as well as Congressman Aderholt, Keith Jones of NACOLG and Director Boswell with ADECA.”

“We’re really excited about the possibilities that will be provided by a new space,” said Russellville Public Library Director Ashley Cummins. “Modern libraries provide more services than simply granting free access to books.”

Cummins said two services she will be glad to see in the new library include a media center with computers and community meeting rooms. She said the current library is limited in what it can offer because of space limitations.

“The library isn’t just books anymore,” added Cummins. “It’s a community center and a center of technology and innovation.”

Cummins said while she and her staff are grateful for the current library building, “when you can build a library from scratch, you can really cater it to the needs of the community.”

Mike Presley, unit chief of communications and external affairs at ADECA, said one of the primary duties for Director Kenneth Boswell is to explore funding options for projects like this. Boswell “routinely talks with municipal leaders and works to guide them in the direction of applying for the grant programs that could potentially benefit their specific community development projects.”

Presley said Boswell has spoken to the mayor in general, and the next step, which is underway, is to arrange a community visit to Russellville to discuss and learn more about the project.

The Russellville Friends of the Library organization recently re-formed, and those interested in more information or wishing to sign up should contact Cummins for details.

“We realize the building is still a ways off,” said Cummins, “but we’re very excited about this project, and we are ready and eager to do everything we can in the planning process and look for grant opportunities wherever we can. In addition, we will be announcing some fundraisers very soon.”

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