A fundraising effort was launched Friday to raise money to expand the Bassett Library, as seen in this artist's rendering. Courtesy of the Harvest Foundation.

A donation of almost $400,000 will kick off a year of fundraising for the Bassett Library. 

The fundraising effort is intended to cover the costs of expanding the 6,000-square-foot facility with an additional 4,000 square feet. The expanded library will feature a children’s department and a reading room for up to 50 people, according to branch manager Karen Barley. 

The addition will also serve as a community space.   

In total, the project is expected to cost about $2.25 million. 

“I have no idea how long it’s going to take us to raise the funding,” library director Rick Ward said at the campaign launch on Friday. 

Martinsville’s Harvest Foundation, a community advocacy group that funds projects throughout the Henry County area, kicked off the campaign launch by announcing a funding package totaling $396,184. 

[Disclosure: The Harvest Foundation is one of our approximately 2,500 donors but donors have no say in news decisions; see our policy.]

“Libraries are [integral] in the fabrics of the communities that they serve,” said DeWitt House, senior program officer with the foundation. “Libraries are more than just books. Libraries are safe, public places that welcome everyone and offer resources for people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.” 

Ward said that while library officials don’t have a set timeline for when they plan to raise the rest of the money, they hope to have it complete within a year. He said library officials have about a year to spend the Harvest Foundation’s gift. 

Bassett Library is part of the Blue Ridge Regional Library system, which also has branches in Collinsville, Martinsville, Stuart and Ridgeway.

Plans for the library’s expansion date back to before the pandemic. At the time, library officials said that while the current location at 3969 Fairystone Park Highway was an asset to the community, it needed additional space. The library moved into its current location in 1998. 

Whitney Mitchell, a longtime library patron, said the library is a go-to for her children. 

“The community is growing,” Mitchell said. “More [library] space is something that we need, and we appreciate that.” 

Mitchell later added that the proposed expansion will only allow the library to better serve not only her kids, but kids throughout the community. 

“Having a space where [students] can just chill after they are done for the day, it’s such a great place for the community,” Mitchell said. 

Ultimately, the Harvest Foundation’s donation is a jumpstart, Turner said. 

“The pressure is now on the board, trustees and steering committee to get off our butts,” Turner said, adding that the community presence at Friday’s event was an indication of the support behind the project. 

Ward anticipates that the community will be enthusiastic as they ramp up their efforts. 

“People love their libraries,” Ward said. 

The Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation accepts donations at any branch location, online at brrlfoundation.org or via mail at Bassett Expansion Fund, Bassett Branch Library, 3969 Fairystone Park Highway, Bassett, VA 24055.

Dean-Paul Stephens is a reporter for Cardinal News. He is based in Martinsville. Reach him at dean@cardinalnews.org...