By Cassidy Pate, News Editor
Although it has gone by different names over the years, the Lena Armstrong Public Library has been a staple to the Belton community since 1899. In line with the library’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan to preserve its legacy and adapt to the needs of the growing community, a proposal for the exterior façade of the building was adopted to improve its outward appeal and attract generations to come.
In 2018, Library System Services performed a needs assessment of the library, and it is through their discoveries, a community survey and focus groups that the Lena Armstrong Public Library has an understanding of the community’s desires. With this, the library’s Strategic Plan details five goals to guide the library and the City of Belton staff through this process: 1) to establish a library collection of importance to the Belton community, 2) to become a gathering place for its citizens, 3)to value the resources available at this establishment, 4) to be a place of lifelong learning and innovation, and 5) to serve everyone who enters the library with excellence.
With these ideals in mind, the City of Belton hired Maureen Arndt, Founding Principal of 720 Design Services, to create a plan for the exterior façade improvements that will enhance these strategies. Within her conceptual site plan, Arndt outlined the need for a fresh coat of paint over the brick that will match the Lena Armstrong Public Library’s former residency at Carnegie building – now home to the Bell County Museum – a canopy over the front entrance, outstanding signage and murals along the north, west and east outer walls, landscaping, improved handicap ramps and concrete around the entrance.
Regarding the funds to make these changes happen, the City of Belton’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Budget includes $100 thousand for the library, and this money will be used to begin the replacement of gutters, downspouts and paint for the exterior of Lena Armstrong Public Library – all projects that will be done by experts recruited through the Belton Public Works Department. The remaining projects – signage, murals and landscaping – are estimated to be $50 thousand, which will need approval from the City of Belton for the FY 2021 TIRZ Budget.
Director of Library Services Kim Kroll will celebrate her 20th year as Head Librarian of the Lena Armstrong Public Library this September. Kroll is passionate about the library and its responsibility to assist the enduring education of the Belton community; therefore, she is hopeful that these improvements and an emphasis on interactivity will carry the library into the future.
“Libraries are changing; they’re not just books anymore; they’re community centers, and they’re more for lifelong learning and all kinds of things other than books,” Kroll said. “We want to be here for the community, what the community needs.”
In terms of a timeline for the Lena Armstrong Public Library’s exterior façade improvements, it is tentative; however, the Library Board and Belton City Council participated in a workshop in February to discuss the plans, bids on the painting and purchasing of the front entrance canopy are proposed for March, and landscaping and bids for signage and murals are set for April. Painting should begin in as soon as May, with the installation of the murals, signage and canopy taking place in June and the final landscaping to be completed from June to August. During these final months, the FY 2021 Budget will be in development, which, if approved, will fund the finishing touches to the Lena Armstrong Public Library’s exterior enhancements.