The history of the Friends of the Bear Library is entwined with the history of the Bear Library itself, and actually precedes the Bear Library. While technically the formal name of the organization is Friends of the Bear Library Association, it is more widely known as simply the Friends of the Bear Library or the four-letter acronym FOBL.
In 1991, several residents of the Bear area met in the home of Bill and Connie Georgov to discuss establishing a library in the fast growing community along the U.S. Route 40 corridor. That year, under the leadership of Beverly Wright, the Friends of the Bear Library (FOBL), Association was established, incorporated and received 501(c)3 federal tax-exempt status. Delle Donne Associates offered several acres of land on the northeast corner of the Delaware Route 7 and U.S. 40 intersection.
During this same period, it became apparent that library services in New Castle County were in desperate need of improvement. Officials in New Castle County (NCCo) did a library needs assessment study, created a Master Plan, and subsequently, formed a Public Libraries Foundation to work with the private sector in an effort to fund the upgrade of library services through a public/private partnerships.
At the time, the residents and businesses in the Bear/Glasgow/Kirkwood/Christiana area did not have a truly local and reasonably accessible library. The closest libraries were in Newark, New Castle, and a very small library in Delaware City. Farm fields continued to sprout housing and commercial developments. Consequently, while the population of the area continued to increase at an epic pace, few library services or community center facilities were available. The members of FOBL continued to meet in private homes, church meeting rooms, and conference rooms at the Glasgow Medical Center. They worked with officials of the State of Delaware to increase the amount of funding for construction of libraries. They worked with New Castle County to fund and equip libraries in an enlarged NCCo Library System. They held donation drives, book sales, plant sales, and bake sales to raise money and promote awareness of the effort to establish the Bear Library.
Eventually, a Friends of the Bear Library Capital Campaign Committee was formed under the leadership of Thomas Whittington and Carol Harrington. The Committee contacted foundations, residents and businesses in the effort to generate the funds needed to build and furnish the library. Other members of the committee were Jean Runge, Donna Draper, and Dan Mealey.
Finally, it became apparent that the lack of infrastructure at the offered site on the northeast corner of the intersection made it terribly costly to build at that location so a search began to find a more suitable site. Mr. Earnest Delle Donne then offered four acres at the edge of Governor’s Square Shopping Center. His donation was accepted and building plans began in earnest. The architectural firm, Design Associates, designed the building as a carousel with the thought that the library would serve mostly young families with children. A large children’s area was an imperative. It was also important that the building have presence and be attractive from all sides since its location provided views from all angles. Community rooms were needed because there was limited space in the area for community and civic groups to meet. The library would be a central focus of this formerly rural area.
Construction began in early 1997 under the direction of Wohlsen Associates. The Capital Campaign Committee was successful in raising the one third of the amount of money needed to build and equip the $5.7 million facility. The library was opened in late December 1997. The Bear Library quickly became the most heavily used library in the state. Because the heavy demand for meeting space was obvious, FOBL advocated for an additional community/meeting room. Stack space was soon converted into a second community room. The Friends established an endowment fund at the Delaware Community Foundation to help provide support for the Bear Library in the future.
By the early 2010’s, the library’s heavy usage caused NCCo officials to consider renovating the interior of the library. Usage studies indicated increased demand for additional community meeting space, a dedicated children’s program space, and much larger public computer space. Once again, the Friends of the Bear Library joined in to provide the money needed from the private sector to fund the renovation of the library.
In 2013, the Bear Library reopened to much acclaim. It now boasts four community/meeting rooms, 52 public computers, an enlarged children’s area with a dedicated programming area, a computer/training lab, and state of the art audio-visual facilities. Staff areas were redesigned with functionality in mind. The Friends of the Bear Library continues to actively support the Bear Library, providing programs for adults and children, enriching the library with landscaping and additional furnishings and materials, and by advocating for our library.
Written by Carol B. Harrington with Editing By David R. Guinnup
Created: 07/29/2016; Last Revision/Update: 08/03/2016 PM.