By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Halfway residents no longer have to wander through cramped aisles to find an enjoyable read.
The Halfway branch of the Baker County Library recently moved from their 500 square foot Main Street location to the old Masonic Lodge building on Gover and Church streets in Halfway. The new library has over 2,000 square feet to utilize.
andquot;I'm still trying to find things,andquot; Halfway librarian Linda Bergeron said.
The new location doesn't just have wide aisles and 3,000 books; it has a parking lot. The previous library only offered street parking.
andquot;Sometimes it was hard to find a place to park. Believe it or not, even in Halfway,andquot; Bergeron said.
The Halfway branch has been open since 1961, first in the Lions Hall and then in a rented space next to a beauty shop and real estate office on Main Street.
During this time, the membership of the Masonic Lodge began going down. Once the number decreased to only two, they consolidated with the Baker Masonic Lodge. The building sat empty until the library board took an interest.
andquot;We'd been looking for another space in Halfway,andquot; Aletha Bonebrake, Baker County librarian, said.
The Baker County Library purchased the property from the Masons in June. The new building not only has parking space on both sides, it has restrooms and a full-size kitchen that Bergeron hopes to use as a meeting room.
andquot;I think it's a perfect building. I couldn't ask for anything better,andquot; she said.
The new location has brought in some new readers, as well as regular patrons.
andquot;Our circulation has at least doubled,andquot; she said.
The selection offers something for everyone with a children's area, periodicals, paper and hardbacks, history books, research materials, videos and audiobooks. And that's just what's on the shelves.
andquot;We've got cupboards and boxes full of donations,andquot; she said.
The kitchen houses the excess right now in piled boxes until Bergeron has a chance to go through the donations.
The branch is connected to the Baker County Library's computer system, and Halfway readers can request books from the main library in Baker City.
The Bookmobile makes a monthly trip to Halfway to pick up and deliver materials. For convenience, books checked out in Baker can be returned in Halfway to avoid late fees. The senior bus, which goes to Baker City on Wednesdays, also takes returns back to the Baker library.
The new location doesn't only offer books and videos. They now have two public access computers hooked up to the Internet, purchased with a $3,000 grant from the half.com Alliance.
andquot;We're expecting to get two more (computers) in September from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,andquot; Bergeron said.
The new computers will come with full techical support and training for the library staff of one.
Bergeron is the primary librarian, and there are volunteers who come in to help. She has lived in Halfway for 11 years, and her previous official library experience comes from working in the Denver Public Library.
andquot;I've just always loved being in libraries,andquot; she said.
The only obstacle Bergeron faces this winter is keeping the parking lot free of snow. In the past, everyone piled excess snow on the vacant Masonic property.
andquot;It gets to be a real problem where to put the snow,andquot; she said.
However, Bergeron doesn't dread the snow like in the past. On Main Street, they had to shovel snow from 20 to 30 feet between the street, sidewalk and front door.
andquot;It was pretty hazardous just getting to the front door,andquot; she said.
Now she only faces a four-foot shoveling job up the ramp to the door of the library.
The exterior of the building a uniform pale greenish-blue offers a possible canvas for artwork. Bergeron hopes to have area residents paint a mural on at least one wall.
andquot;We've got a lot of artistic people out here,andquot; she said.
Other future plans include a garden on one side of the property. Bergeron said that a few community members have taken the master gardeners class and can do the landscaping as community service.
The library is open nine hours a week Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
andquot;If we can get some volunteers to help, we'll be open Friday mornings too,andquot; Bergeron said.
There are four library branches throughout Baker County in Haines, Huntington, Richland and Halfway.
andquot;Aletha Bonebrake gives wonderful support to these satellite branches. We're not forgotten,andquot; Bergeron said.