Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Updated: 9:56 AMBrookport Library has turned the corner on 25 years.
Twenty-five years ago, the library was housed in the empty grade school belonging to the Massac County School Board, located across the street from the old Brookport Grade School.
The newly-formed Brookport Betterment Committee (BBC) Inc. had reached an agreement with the board to use their building for the customary $1 per year.
Since the Brookport City Council and the BBC couldn’t come to terms with each other, Don Askew and Leo Motley helped get the BBC incorporated, to make it an entity and have legal rights to sign contracts.
Work on the organization’s 501-3c process began almost immediately.
To say the rest is history, would be putting it mildly. It has been 25 years of struggle for the organization. Finances weren’t a problem when they first occupied the building, except for the fact that it had no working plumbing and no heat.
Those problems were solved with a sign on the door explaining the staff was on a “break,” while staff members hurried to their own homes with bathrooms.
Two kerosene heaters were bought to keep the chill off the building during the winter months.
Total on the expenses ranged from $50 to $75 a month, which included the kerosene and the insurance.
The next incident was six years later when the school board wanted their building back so it could be removed to make way for a new pre-school.
The BBC decided to continue with the library. A building fund was set up. Books were orderly packed in boxes marked fiction, non-fiction and children.
The process was over seen by Andrea Douglas because books were going to have to be stored for over a year.
The library’s first big break came when an anonymous donation of $25,000 arrived on their doorstep. This gave the organization the ability to purchase and repair a small house on U.S. 45 across from the memorial statue.
The house served the organization for the next seven years. Some state grants arrived, allowing the library to add computer services. Two years later, another anonymous donation of $50,000 arrived. That solved many financial problems when interest on the funds paid almost all the new expenses incurred when the library moved into the building.
A “good news/bad news” scenario developed. The library grew so fast — it was rapidly running out of room. At a library board meeting, Rosemary Hohman was complaining about how hard it was to maintain her late husband’s building on U.S. 45. Half the members, at one time, said, “Sell it to us.”
Again, the rest is history. Not quite. The BBC bought the building, moved the books with the great help of too many people to mention, turned it from a garage into a library with a reading room, heat, lights, water and air-conditioning.
Expenses were now at over $500 a month. Now, the real struggle began. For 15 years since moving into the new building, the library has managed to stay open.
Money came in from literally all over the world, when the library board came up with a campaign to enroll a million members at $1 and maintain the building on the interest off the million dollars.
A lot of publicity was gained, but the library didn’t come close to the goal.
However, in the past 25 years, the library has enrolled 1100 members from 35 states and 10 foreign countries.
Over the years, financial goals have been met with people willing to be sustaining members at so much per month for certain periods of time.
Then came the tornado of 2013. The building was spared but sustained over $5000 worth of damage. The building was insured, but picking wrong companies to repair the building cost the library to go in the red for almost $3000 more beyond the $5000.
The current campaign goal is to raise $30,000 to sustain the library for five more years.
The goal could be reached if 30,000 people were willing to kick in $1 each. The board would gladly accept $30,000 from one person if they could be found.
In the meantime, with the library in serious financial problems with less a year’s worth of funds left to keep the doors open, a Go Fund Me account has been set up.
Donation letters have been sent to Brookport Alumni. A roadblock has been set for mid-May. Donations may be mailed to: Brookport Library, P.O. Box 308, Brookport, IL 62910.
— — — —
Editor’s Note: Since the board received word from Askew that she will be retiring from the board in 18 months on her 80th birthday, Askew is wanting to leave a healthy bank total for the next incoming chairman.