By Richard Stephens – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
Shirley Harlan feels very strongly about libraries, especially rural libraries, and the Beatty resident is putting her money where her heart is.
Last spring, Harlan, who chairs the Beatty Library Board, pledged $25,000 toward the construction of a new addition to the library.
The library has been seeking grant money for the addition, and Harlan said she thought her pledge “would give us some leverage” with the grant foundations.
With these agencies still taking the stance of “come back when you are closer to being able to start building,” Harlan said she realized “that wasn’t going to happen for a long time.”
So, after giving it some more thought, on Jan. 8 she announced to her board, and on Jan. 9 to the Beatty Town Advisory Board, that she was pledging an additional $75,000.
All $100,000 will remain invested up until the time construction is ready to start, at which time it will be released. The 83-year-old told the Town Board the pledge is also included in her will; although she says she hopes to see the addition built “before I kick off.”
“I’m hoping this will be an incentive for small donations,” says Harlan, “not only to this library, but to other libraries in the county.”
She also hopes that it will also help raise awareness of the importance of rural libraries. She says the library is “a resource, not only for education, but also for recreation.”
Besides lending books, DVDs and other items, the Beatty Library also has a game day on Mondays, a book club, and craft, story time, and summer reading programs for children.
“I notice that some of the elderly people come over to use the computers,” says Harlan, “and I’m so pleased that people my age are using the computers. I use the computer. I’m not real skilled at it yet, but I do enjoy it.”
“Also, on these cold days it gives people somewhere to come and warm up a little bit.”
On the subject of heat, Harlan says that the choice of a geodesic dome for the building has proved a savings in heating and cooling cost. “Our bill for heating and cooling runs about $140 a month,” she says.
However, with more space given to computers, and a growing collection, the library is now not only cramped for space, but the higher shelves that have been added to accommodate the book interfere with the air flow that helps produce that energy efficiency.
Harlan says the addition is also needed because, with the crowded conditions, there is no privacy for board meetings or for conversations among individual patrons.
The proposed addition, another geodesic dome about half the size of the existing one, and some extensions, would have dedicated counters wired for computers, and would also include restrooms and meeting space. The estimated cost is approximately $250,000.
She notes that the original library got built after she worked to secure an $80,000 grant, which, after being invested for a year when interest rates were very high, grew to $96,000.
“We bought the whole thing, and even had money left over for wood for the shelves, and came out with $3.25 left over. Times have changed.”
The library is developing its own web page, and there are plans to develop a program to make it easy for others to donate whatever they can.
Harlan, who has been a Beatty resident since 1968, has worked with the Beatty Library since its beginning. The library, originally located in the old town hall, was started by the Beatty Professional Women’s Association.
Harlan worked there as a volunteer part-time librarian and continued until 1973, when Sue Holloway was hired as the town’s first full-time librarian.
She served on the library board from 1975 until 1997, and worked tirelessly for the establishment of the Beatty Library District, which gave the library its own source of revenue.
She returned to the board, which is now elected, in 2011, and is applying for another term. She has chaired the board for almost here entire time of service.
Harlan is also the founding and continuing chairman of the Beatty Habitat Committee, and served three terms on the Beatty Town Advisory Board.
She also served on the Governor’s Commission on the Status of People (which was formed in response to the women’s movement) and on the Nevada State Advisory Committee on Libraries and Museums.
In 2007, working with a professor from UNLV, Harlan completed an oral history of the Beatty Library, which is available from the library and from libraries throughout the state by way of interlibrary loan.