Jo Ann Oliphant writes
\"Thanks to over a $3 million dollar gift from the Joe Barnhart Foundation, Beeville is set to be the new home for Bee County’s state-of-the-art library in late 2000. The new library will be housed in the historic two-story Praeger Building, one of the city’s vacant downtown landmarks. Construction began in March and is scheduled to be completed in August. The Library serves the County’s 27,000 population of which 70% are Hispanic.
In 1999, David M. Henington, a Houston-based library consultant, was hired by the Joe Barnhart Foundation to assist with the development project. The historic structure will be a combination of its current turn-of-the-century architecture with modern design and technology elements. The plan entitled, “Connecting the Past with Future: a plan to move the Bee County Public Library into the new millennium”, was designed by Henington, John Focke of Ray Bailey Architects, Inc., and Dr. Pete Smith of the University of Texas at Arlington.
Because Henington was reluctant to give up space inside the building for an additional staircase (required by the fire code) and elevator (mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act), an 840-square-foot glass addition containing both will be built on the Praeger’s east side. “Since this is a building recognized by the Texas Historical Commission, it was imperative to retain the dignity of the building,” he said. “The glass addition does not compete with the building’s façade and it was acceptable to the historical commission.”
The library will contain children’s area, young adult area, popular reading area, and a multipurpose meeting room (to be named for Mrs. James R. Doughterty, benefactor of the current facility) on the first floor and reference area, adult area, genealogy/local history area, and legal research room on the second floor. Approximately 40 computers will be available for public use. All computers will be connected to the Internet and to the Library’s automation system.
The Library’s multipurpose room will be used for storytimes, morning coffee and news gatherings, and training. The training will include videoconferencing, web-based tutorials, and hands on computer classes. There will be 24 laptops available for the training classes and for in house circulation.
The Library has chosen epixtech’s Horizon for its automation system. Three school districts in Bee County and one school district in Live Oak County have joined the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library with this automation project.
In addition to the hefty sum the Foundation is initially contributing, and the building, which is owned by the foundation, philanthropic organization also has committed to supporting the library with an endowment of $100,000 a year - forever. “The primary thing Joe Barnhart wanted was a library for Beeville,” Maggie Price, foundation trustee, said. “He was an avid reader who stayed up until 4 a.m. reading almost every night. He wanted everyone to enjoy reading as much as he did, and he always wanted Beeville to have a good library in the building.”