New Benton library starts to take shape

Construction crews worked diligently on the new Marshall County Public Library (MCPL) in Benton last week while the weather cooperated. MCPL Director Kristi Tucker said Pinnacle Construction should have the building ready to turn over early next year and she hopes to have it ready for the community in March 2020.

RACHEL KELLER COLLINS/The Tribune-Courier

Rising above the mud, orange cones and fencing on 12th Street is a gorgeous brick building with clean lines, offering a modern and simultaneously traditional vibe as the new Marshall County Public Library in Benton takes shape. By this time next year, the facility will be celebrating nearly six months of sparking the imagination of our community's little ones and offering a place of business and education (and also imagination) for our adults.

Marshall County Public Library Director Kristi Tucker said project managers with Pinnacle Construction of Benton are still anticipating being able to hand over the building in Jan. 2020. Once she and her staff have the keys, they will take some time to move into and set up the facility for its guests. She said she anticipates opening the doors in March 2020 and will announce plans for a grand opening ceremony closer to time.

Tucker also noted the library has no intention of keeping its current Benton facility on Poplar Street--it will be for sale as soon as they're able to move.

"We will sell that building to recover financially," she explained. "We're a tax-based entity and we have to operate on what we get once a year. We will not have four locations. We will have three just like we do now and only one will be in Benton."

During last week's Biscuits and Breakfast event hosted by the Kentucky Lake Chamber of Commerce, Tucker shared a few statistics which she puts together annually. In the last fiscal year, the libraries hosted 758 programs--and nearly 16,000 people attended them. The libraries clocked nearly 180,000 visits and more than 32,000 of those were at Hardin, the smallest branch. More than 1,000,000 items were checked out and as of the last count, nearly 32,000 library cards have been issued--which is approximately the entire population count of the county.

"Be proud of that," Tucker said. "If we tried to take away branches, there would be many people very upset because each of them are heavily used. If we took away the Hardin branch with numbers like that, think of what an asset and tool we would be taking away from them."

Tucker noted Marshall County is unique in that it has more than one library, mentioning the neighboring McCracken County which only has one location near downtown Paducah. She asked if the crowd thought people from the outliers of the county traveled into town to utilize it--or if they might be better served by having more than one location which would allow access to the many resources available.

Among the many resources the MCPLs provide, Tucker said, is test proctoring for people whose careers require additional training such as police officers, daycare workers, non-traditional students and engineers; a multitude of databases such as Universal Class which offers thousands of courses in a variety of topics with real-life professors and there's no cost to those utilizing it--just a library card; the Book Mobile program which brings the books out into the community as well as transports books to and from the locations; Story Hour; After School Program; Teen After School Program; the new Club Wonder Program (for those who have aged out of After School but are too young for Teen). The Hardin location has a pumpkin patch painting program upcoming and the Calvert City branch is planning a sea shell painting program which is so popular they're going to have to add days and staff.

Something relatively new the libraries are offering that has been a big hit, Tucker said, is the 3D printers. The printers are available for checking out and the only cost is paying for the filament used. She said they're staying checked out all the time for a number of projects and play; she said one person made their own monopoly pieces and the tech specialist has used it a few times to make a piece that repairs one of their doors. She noted the maker space which is slated for the new library in Benton will offer a larger 3D printer and a variety of other equipment to engage creativity and intellectualism.

The libraries offer a variety of programs at each of the locations every month and they're always changing, Tucker said. The MCPL has a social media presence where they push programs and they regularly update the website www.marshallcolibrary.org, which also allows people to sign up for emails with regular updates.

Tucker said she and her staff have also been working on finding ways to get outside the walls of the libraries and interact with the community. She said the MCPL will have a booth set up at the WHO Festival in Mike Miller Park on Sept. 21.

In honor of the upcoming Marshall County Family Month in Sept., they've planned three separate events: Animal Tales at Benton on Sept. 9 from 5-6:30 p.m.; Mini-Golf at Calvert City on Sept. 16 from 5-6:30 p.m.; Mr. Bond at Hardin on Sept. 23 from 5-6:30 p.m. Each night, Tucker said all kids will leave with a free book.

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