Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bella Vista Public Library

You will hear about book club members tomorrow.

I think the Bella Vista Public Library deserves it own post. After all this is where the Science Fiction Book Club meets. It is a unique public library. No tax dollars or public funds were used to found the library. Volunteers and donations have allowed the library to exist for many years.

When I moved to Bella Vista it was a retirement village governed by the Property Owners Association. Bella Vista Village was started as a vacation and retirement community in the 1970’s. Located in Northwest Arkansas on the Missouri border the founder envisioned a community of around 10,000 made up mostly of retirees. Until the late 1990’s that was the bulk of the residents. Retirees have lots of time and when not playing golf (we have multiple golf courses) they wanted to read. Some of the ladies of the village started a library in one room of one of the clubhouses. That was the start of the Bella Vista Public Library. It was run entirely by volunteers. More people moved in and more space was needed. A grant was obtained to build a library building to serve a population of 10,000. Anyone who lived in Bella Vista could get a free library card; after all it was a public library. Because Bella Vista was located in an unincorporated area of the county we had no tax base for the library to draw on. The POA and several groups contributed funds to buy books and hire a library director. The Bella Vista Public Library had to rely on volunteers and donations to stay in business. Things in Bella Vista Village changed when Northwest Arkansas experienced a large growth in population. While there were still a large number of retirees in the Village, the population began to shift with younger families moving in. The population grew rapidly from 10,000 to 26,000. The library adapted to the meet the changes in population. The funding for the library did not change. The library still depended on volunteers and donations to survive.

Two years ago there was initiative to change the status of Bella Vista. The initiative passed and Bella Vista incorporated. We still have the POA for all the recreational amenities but we now have a city government for other services. Both the city (with public funds) and the POA donate but as yet there is no dedicated tax base for the library. The funds from the POA and the city are not guarantee from year to year and are not enough to run the library. Bella Vista Library still depends on volunteers and other donations to exist. Visit the Bella Vista Public Library site to see this unique library.

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