Downtown Aberdeen has turned the page on a new chapter in its history. On Thursday, the nonprofit group Friends of the Aberdeen Library purchased a .79 acre site at 105 N. Pine St., where they have big plans to construct a new, modern library building.
The newly purchased tract adjoins a slightly smaller parcel of land owned by the town. Together they provide an L-shaped property that could offer parking for the library and downtown visitors.
Established in 2014, Friends of the Aberdeen Library set about fundraising with an initial goal to collect enough money to buy the land. They raised nearly $50,000 through various fundraising activities and the group also worked with state Rep. Jamie Boles, who assisted with submitting a petition for a $25,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
“This committee has done well. They have really done a grassroots job and people have responded,” said Betsy Mofield, the newly elected chairman and a former mayor of Aberdeen. “Having the ground was the key. Now we can start researching other grant opportunities and funding sources.”
In 2016, the Aberdeen Board of Commissioners endorsed the group’s work after being assured that the current Page Memorial Library would be affiliated, so it does not lose its historical status. Located at 100 S. Poplar St., the current library is the second oldest in continuous operation in the state, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; however, at only 960 square feet of space, its size is insufficient to serve the growing town’s future needs.
Mofield said the historic library is a wonderful landmark and that everyone on the committee, and the community at-large, understands the value of it.
“I like to think of this new library as an annex, even though it will be much larger,” she said.
Friends board member Barbara Allred, who also served on the Moore County Library Board, is credited with kicking off the Aberdeen project. She said she was inspired by the things she saw being done at other libraries around the county.
“I felt our children were being left out in our area. I wanted to give my grandchildren and all the other children in our community a library where they can have story time. And a place where adults can go and have meeting. There are so many things to enjoy that go on in a library,” she said.
She helped form the Friends of the Aberdeen Library in 2014, and set the first major fundraising goal through events like: the Aberdeen Sardine Festival; a barbecue dinner at the Aberdeen Fire Department; an Evening with Mark Twain event held this week at the Rooster’s Wife; individual and business solicitations; the Aberdeen High School reunion program; and other donations.
“I just can’t begin to tell you about the value of Barbara Allred. She is a fine, fine lady,” gushed Mofield. “She is a never give-up person like the Energizer bunny. It is because of her and so many prominent people who have taken the lead that this project is moving forward.”
The Styers-Galyen family, previous owners of the North Pine Street property, offered the Friends organization a special deal and held the property to allow adequate time to raise money. The Aberdeen-based office of Thigpen & Jenkins represented the Friends committee to complete the transaction.
“The new site is an easy walk from downtown. That was important. We have been focused on the need for the new library to be a downtown destination. It will attract foot traffic and it must be easily accessible,” said Town Commissioner Ken Byrd, who previously chaired the Friends Board. “We see this as a community gathering place.”
The estimated price tag for the 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot building proposed could top $3 million. Grant funding is typically an option for furnishings, equipment and programming needs, but much more scarce for construction.
The larger facility would include space to accommodate a children’s summer reading program, youth activities and after school programs, senior activities, meeting spaces for groups and the latest technologies. Organizers also envision space set aside, potentially, for a historical and cultural museum.
“We expect it will take us a few more years to raise funds for the building. The vision in place now is an all brick building and we’re working with the architect to make sure it is expandable. A second floor could be added in the future,” Byrd said.
Once the new facility is built, the Page Memorial Library would be converted for genealogical research and as a repository of local history.
“We have lots of stuff and information about Aberdeen. This will give us an opportunity to collect it all in one place where people can come conduct research. It will very much remain part of the active library system,” said Janet Peele, board treasurer for Friends of the Library.
Peele encouraged any interested residents and families to join the ongoing planning and fundraising efforts.
“We need people to help run our projects. We have experience in how to do this and we just need some more boots on the ground,” she said.
For the near term, the new site on North Pine Street will be used for upcoming outdoor events and programs.
“We want to start familiarizing folks with the thought that this is where the new library will go. There are a lot of little things we want to do and we are excited to start planning,” Byrd said.
Mofield said the town has been playing catch-up on a number of facilities, including a proposed new police department, in addition to the expanded library.
“This new library building will be our town’s resource center for young and old. All people in Aberdeen will have a place to do research and use the technology that they may not have at home,” she said. “I like to think of it as a necessity, but it really is a bonus for everybody.”
The library committee is leaving “no stone unturned” in looking ahead to funding assistance and grants that can be used to offset construction costs and purchasing materials for the new library. Their goal is to build the library to be free and clear, with no mortgage, before it is turned over to the town.
“It has been a wonderful thing that is happening and it really brings the town together with a common goal,” Mofield said. “We will keep at the fundraising the Aberdeen way — brick by brick, fundraiser by fundraiser.”