Since 1997, SCBWI-Illinois has actively sponsored the Children's Room of the Frank Bertetti Benld Public Library.
|Books for Benld|
"Is the library open yet?"
This is the question, says Library Director Michael J. Baldwin, that excited children peppered him with repeatedly in September of 1997. With eyes round as cucumber slices they came, impatiently counting the days until they could pull up a chair and sit at the low wooden tables in the Children's Library Room with a brand new book.
No wonder the children of Benld were excited. They’d never had a library of their own before. The newly-constructed Frank Bertetti Benld Library was a monumental event for the economically-depressed coal mining town that boasted a small, but diverse, population of 1,600.
"When Benld was founded, there were 168 first graders," says Mr. Baldwin. "Among them, they spoke 124 different languages and dialects. Most can trace their ancestry to the same island, Ellis."
The Illinois Library Association connected SCBWI-Illinois with the Benld Public Library a few months before its grand opening October 26, 1997. The Chapter gladly took the Children's Room under its wing, collecting books at Chapter programs and buying books to meet the readers' Wish Lists
Operation "Books for Benld" received an enthusiastic kick-off at SCBWI’s 1997 October "Book and Boo Bash." Ghosts, goblins and ghouls arrived at Kohl's Children Museum in Winnetka bearing best-selling books for Benld’s new library. And the tradition has continued. Book donations are collected at every Chapter Program, brought by SCBWI members who want to make a difference.
"The books that your group sends us are a big help," says Children’s Librarian, Mary Newman, "and very much enjoyed by the children." She often directs children to the books donated by SCBWI, especially autographed copies. Of the 9,011 books that line the library’s shelves, 2,600 are in the Children’s Department. By this summer SCBWI will have contributed well over 300 books. "Books will bring the world to this town," Regional Advisor Esther Hershenhorn commented. "They will bring possibilities."
Mary Kay Newman invites members to Benld to see the library and to meet their young patrons. She also reports that new grant money may soon be available to host author/illustrator visits. Interested SCBWI members may contact Mary at (217) 835-4045 or FBE@lcls.org . Benld is located 10 miles South of Litchfield, off I-55. Mary's comments and recent photographs are reprinted below.
MARY KAY NEWMAN SHARES NEWS OF THE NEW LIBRARY IN BENLD:
The Frank Bertetti Benld Public Library has been serving the Benld community for four years. During this time our collection has grown to over 9,000 books. We have been very fortunate to receive many donations and grants to help the library grow. Last year we received a grant from the Libri Foundation in Eugene, Oregon that allowed us to add over $1,000 in new children's books. State library grants have allowed us to add non-fiction and adult literacy materials.
Children's programs are held monthly in the library. Family Reading Nights are held twice a year in conjunction with the South Macoupin County Head Start, which is located next to the library. Pre-School lap-sits are held during the evenings for children and their parents. A monthly story time is held for older children with guest readers.
During the month of May the Benld Elementary School children will visit the library and celebrate Arthur's Birthday. Over 500 children will stop by for a story and activities. On May 15th we broke ground for a new elementary school. The children are currently attending in buildings that were built in 1917.
The city of Benld will be 100 years old in 2004. We are working to preserve the history of the community. Many residents have donated old pictures and other memorabilia to the library. We are hoping to preserve the history of the community on tape.
Children visit the library on their way home from school to do homework, work on the computer or to visit and watch a video. Over the last year we checked out 3,550 children's books and 406 children's videos. Not bad for a town whose population is under 1600. The library offers Internet Access, lessons on the use of the Internet and homebound delivery service.