Library in Roberts closed permanently

ROBERTS — The Roberts Public Library will not re-open, the village board decided at its monthly meeting on Sept. 10.

Closed since October 2016 following the discovery of rotted floor joists underneath a stage on the library’s north end, the facility at 108 E. Green St. in downtown Roberts needed about $5,000 in repairs to re-open.

Over the past two years, a group of residents tried to raise enough funds to make the repairs to the facility, which had served the Ford County community of 362 people for the past decade.

But in the end, only around $3,500 could be raised, and attempts to seek bids from a contractor to fix the stage floor ended up “futile,” according to the village board’s president, Rick Flessner.

“I couldn’t find anybody to do it,” Flessner said.

After months of deliberation on how to move forward, the village board made the reluctant decision to permanently close the library and disband the library board.

In a letter to the public, Flessner said any funds donated to the library that could be verified through a check or other means have been returned to the donors.

“Unfortunately, those who donated cash cannot be reliably reimbursed,” Flessner said.

Following the refunds, there is a remaining balance of $1,748 in the village’s library fund, Flessner said.

“The village board has decided to let that balance remain in the library fund account to cover any future costs such as Dumpster fees, etc.,” Flessner said.

If any funds still remain after the property is cleaned up, they may be used for the village’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2022.

Flessner said that besides the condition of the library building, other factors that contributed to the board’s decision to keep the facility closed included:

— A musty smell in the building, “either due to moldy books or other factors.”

— A lack of usage of the facility by the public.

— With the advent of mobile devices and social media, the way people receive their information today is no longer by newspaper and books.

— No taxes are collected to support the library itself. “The library was begun as a project funded solely by the village of Roberts, donations and library book rental fees,” Flessner said. “The library was a monthly cost (to the village), with no positive monthly revenue being seen.”

Flessner said closing the library was not an easy decision.

“We do appreciate what everyone has done in the past years for the library. It is unfortunate that times and the way we receive our information have changed,” Flessner said in his letter.

Prior to being relocated to its existing location downtown, the library was housed in a room located off of the stage in the Roberts Gym. The Roberts Women’s Club opened the library in the gym several years before it relocated downtown, using donations of books to get it started.

“There was somebody by the name of Bev Thomas (a member of the women’s club) who was bound and determined we were going to have a library,” recalled Betty Corbin, a former member of the women’s club, which disbanded shortly after the library moved to its downtown location.

As fundraising was under way in 2017 to fix the library’s stage floor, Corbin said the library had benefitted her greatly.

“I didn’t read before we had this,” the retired Corbin said.

The library’s collection of books had grown in recent years, now totaling an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 titles.

Its patrons ranged from youngsters to the elderly.

“The one who reads the most is over 90 (years old),” Corbin said, referring to Lois Cole, a member of the Roberts Area Library Committee. “She reads more books than anybody else (in Roberts).”

Other business
Also at the village board’s Sept. 10 meeting:

➜ Taylor Behrens was sworn-in to a village board seat vacated by Joy Gonzales’ resignation on Aug. 6. Gonzales, who had been a village trustee since May 6, 2013, was also recognized by the board for her service. Gonzales is moving with her family to Texas.

➜ Water department employee Paul Theesfield said 864,400 gallons of water were pumped in the village in the previous month.

➜ Maintenance department employee David Fuoss said he has been busy mowing, adding that he removed the American flags in town until next Memorial Day.

➜ A meeting with Ameren Illinois staff was set for Sept. 13.

➜ The board learned that a letter had been received from Ricky Ricketts’ attorney concerning drainage issues at his property on East Green Street.

➜ A building permit was issued for a garage at 207 W. Green St.

Location (3):Local, Ford County, Roberts


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