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Marlo Henneman (left) will serve as librarian of the new community library located at the Evansville Arts Center, 111 Main Street in Evansville, while Amara Henneman (right) will serve as the children's librarian. (Photo by Tara Bitzan)

Evansville Art Center turns another page

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Philosopher Confucius once said, "You cannot open a book without learning something."

Members of the Evansville Arts Coalition (EAC) believe that books are important resources for continued learning as well as for entertainment. The members have focused on a long-time goal of bringing an organized library back to the city of Evansville.

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The city did have a community library for a time, but it folded about 20 years ago, according to EAC member Sharon Henneman.

When the arts coalition acquired the Evansville Arts Center building in 2004, it began operating a free book lending library.

"We had a bunch of books but nothing organized," Henneman explained. "We never really had the ability to do any real organizing; we were using old display shelves from the town's old drug store, and they just didn't allow for easy display of books."

Henneman and other EAC members never gave up on the idea of an organized community library, but had to focus on making improvements to the 100-year-old building first.

"We've been pushing the idea for a long time, but had to wait to get the flooring project done so we could establish some permanent book shelves," the volunteer said.

The flooring project was completed last fall thanks to a grant from the Evansville Historical Foundation (EHF). The old drug store display cases were donated to the EHF, who in turn donated money to the EAC to purchase the materials to build bookshelves.

The Evansville School shop class, under the direction of teacher Tim Fenalson, began building the shelves as a class project.

The term ended before the project was finished, but local carpenters came forward to donate their time and expertise to finish the project, including Harlan Englund, Paul Schecker and Shawn Stinton.

The bookshelves were recently installed in the new library located at the Evansville Art Center, and the collection, which includes about 2,500 books, is being unboxed and put on display. Volunteers are also being trained to staff the library.

"This really has been a community project," Henneman said. "Everything has been donated - all the labor, every book, everything! There have been well over 30 people involved in this project."

The EHF also donated a rolling bookshelf to the EAC. The shelf was part of the town's original library and was used to display children's books. According to Henneman, it has been fixed up and painted and will again be used to display children's books.

The library will operate under an informal honor system.

"There will be no due dates," Henneman said. "People are really appreciative of that. It will get recorded who checked the book out, but they can bring it back whenever it is convenient for them."

Henneman said there are also plans to develop a summer reading program at the library to be held in conjunction with the weekly Viking Library System Bookmobile visit.

MEET THE LIBRARIANS

Decades ago, Marlo Henneman dreamed of becoming the librarian at Evansville's community library. Her dream came true in 1969 when she was hired to fill the role for $50 per year.

The dream was short-lived, however. She had to quit the job when she and her husband moved to Montana just a few months later.

Little did she know when returning to Evansville in 1987 that she'd get another shot at the job.

Henneman was asked to serve as head librarian of the new EAC library, while Amara Henneman, a 6th grader at Evansville School, volunteered to serve as the children's librarian.

Both have been busy sorting and shelving books in preparation of the library's open house this weekend.

OPEN HOUSE

An open house will be held at the Evansville Art Center library, 111 Main Street, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 26-28.

On Thursday the library will be open during the 17th annual Coffee House Poetry Night, which begins at 7 p.m.

The open house will continue Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days. Ann Dunn, Anishinabe poet, author and storyteller, will give a presentation on Friday at 1 p.m. Jill Johnson, author, will read from her book, Little Minnesota, a nostalgic look at Minnesota's smallest towns, and sign autographs on Saturday at 2 p.m.

LIBRARY HOURS

The library will be open during regular Evansville Art Center hours, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as Mondays from 5 to 7 p.m. and during all EAC events.

It will also be open every Tuesday during July and August from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. for a summer reading program. The Viking Library System Bookmobile will be on site every other Tuesday all summer from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m.

ABOUT THE EVANSVILLE ARTS COALITION

The Evansville Arts Coalition was formed in 1996 by a group of people who enjoy the arts. Its mission is "to plan and coordinate art events and activities that entertain, stimulate and engage the people of Evansville and surrounding areas."

In the fall of 2004 a building was donated to the coalition. The Evansville Art Center, located at 111 Main Street, now serves as a unique exhibit gallery with featured artists on display; a gift shop featuring products by many regional artists, musicians and authors; and a library.

The membership-based organization is open to anyone, with annual memberships of $15 for individuals, $25 for families and $125 for corporate.

For more information call (218) 948-2787 or visit the website evansvilleartcenter.com.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Life Editor Tara Bitzan on Twitter at @TBitzan.

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Tara Bitzan
Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.
(320) 763-1211
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