Orfordville 7-year-old leading fundraising campaign for new library

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
— Benjamin Jackson's well-rehearsed presentation to his second-grade classmates Tuesday morning was the first of what he hopes will be many.

The 7-year-old philanthropist is soliciting donations to build a new Orfordville Public Library.

In class Tuesday, he introduced himself and his family, pointing to his parents, Tony and Agnes, and his little brother Milo in an enlarged photo his mother held against the blackboard.

"We live three minutes from the library, six minutes by pogo stick," he said, eliciting giggles from his classmates at Footville Elementary.

He discussed the need for a new library and told classmates he is setting aside $2 from his weekly allowance to help build a new library.

"The whole reason I'm doing this is because I love to read!" he said as he finished his presentation.

He then quietly told his mother to take down the picture of him curled up with a book because it was embarrassing.

Benjamin's passion for reading has turned into a community fundraising campaign known as Benjamin's Library Cup for a new Orfordville library. Librarian Sarah Strunz said she's hoping it will be the final push to raise the remaining $460,000.

If 1,000 people donated $2 a week for five years, a new library could be built, Benjamin said.

The library has raised about $140,000 in donations and pledges toward the goal of $600,000, Strunz said. A new library has been in the planning stages for years, but it all depends on donations.

Benjamin's campaign is simple and straightforward: It encourages people to give small amounts on an ongoing basis, Agnes Jackson said.

"You don't have to give thousands of dollars," she said.

Although the library board in 2008 paid $32,000 for land at 115 N. Center St., which is less than a block from the library at 203 W. Beloit St., the new library might wind up in the Burtness Chevrolet building. The village is in preliminary talks with the car dealership, which is considering building a new facility in the business park.

During his presentation Tuesday, Benjamin engaged his audience with humor and questions. He used photos to explain three problems at the library:

-- "It's over 100 years old," he said, pointing to an old picture of the building, which previously housed the fire and police stations and city hall.

-- "People in wheelchairs like to read, too," he said after asking his classmates why a photo of him sitting on the staircase at the library was a problem.

-- "This is the third and final problem," he said, showing a picture of him and Strunz trying to get books from the same cramped aisle. "It's too small."

The two-level, 1,200-square-foot library would expand to more than 4,000 square feet on one level with open areas to relax and enjoy materials, Strunz said. A community room with a separate entrance would be available for groups such as 4-H or scouts.

Circulation of library materials increased 30 percent between 2005 and 2011, Strunz said.

Preliminary drawings for a new facility were approved by the state, but the library board has since made changes, she said.

Strunz would love to see the project become reality in two years, but she realizes it is dependent on fundraising.

If people jump on board with Benjamin's Cup, "that adds up," she said.

"I just felt like every time he came in with his money in an envelope, he hands it to me if a little boy can save a little bit of his (money), maybe others can save a little bit of theirs," she said. "Then we can get it built."

"If he's got that much interest in it, there's got to be other people out there that we're not reaching that would like to see a new library."

For more information about Benjamin's Library Cup, go online to benjaminslibrarycup.org. The website includes a pledge form and a way for people to donate through PayPal. Questions can be emailed to 2aweek@BenjaminsLibraryCup.org.

Library supporters are looking for more people willing to get involved with the project. Librarian Sarah Strunz said the Greater Orfordville Area Library Friends has about 10 active members, but it would love to double or triple the number of people involved.

For more information or to get involved, call the library at (608) 879-9229.

Last updated: 7:15 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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