Elizabeth Gibson, president of The Friends of the Benton Library, wants all Belmont residents to know one thing about Sunday's event at the historic building.
“We want everyone to feel welcome,” she said.
After years of work by the Friends, a neighborhood group and the Benton Library Reuse Committee, the grand reopening is finally taking place on Sunday, May 22 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the building on the corner of Oakley Road and Old Middlesex Street.
The celebration will feature speakers at 3 p.m., light refreshments and the opportunity to sign up for library cards.
“So much has been accomplished by this group, much of it just in the past three weeks,” said Friends Secretary Virginia Jordan.
“The building was cleaned. The furnace was repaired, water service restored and a hot water heater installed.”
Moreover, Jordan said, Benton received its Certificate of Occupancy to allow it to officially open to the public, Verizon spent a day installing Internet service and four computers were donated (both desktop and laptop) and installed on a wireless network.
“The books were arranged with new shelf signs,” she said. “Our online catalog for circulation is in progress; the first young neighbor has applied for a library card; the front door was varnished; and the IRS approved the Friends of Benton Library tax exemption status (with a 501 (c) (3) designation).”
Sounds like a lot of activity and hard work.
That’s par for the course for the Friends of the Benton Library, formed in September 2009 when the Belmont Public Library was still operating the Benton as a branch library. Soon after the branch closed, the Friends worked on fundraising and a proposal for the to license the building to the group and allow it to reopen the branch and run it with volunteers at no expense to the town.
In September 2010, the Benton Library Reuse Committee unanimously voted to recommend that the selectmen endorse their proposal for a new, independent library and grant a license agreement for it to be opened in the historic stone Benton building, built in 1892 as the chapel for a boys' school and given to the town by the family more than a century ago.
The Friends of the Benton Library Inc., a group of volunteers dedicated to working in partnership with the town to reopen the building as a community-based library, discussed their proposal with the Benton Library Reuse Committee in preparation for a presentation before the Selectmen on Oct. 4.
Both groups were thrilled with the amount of work that went into the proposal and that a solution, agreeable to the community as well as the selectmen, was found.
The independent library–lending books and other materials and offering activities to all Belmont citizens–will be open for 15 hours each week, sustained by private funding and be staffed by volunteers.
"Congratulations to all involved in reopening the Benton Library,” said Friend Paul Solomon.
"They have not only preserved one of Belmont's most historic treasures, but have ensured that it will be used and appreciated by the whole Belmont community,” he said.