Amidst the growing community of Bethlehem and off the beaten path of N.C. 127 North, Bethlehem Branch Library offers an engaging blend of books and art.
The library, part of the Alexander County Library, opened five years ago on Rink Dam Road.
Through the efforts of the Bethlehem Branch Friends, the small library expanded last year and added a children’s section.
Bud Caywood, president of Friends, Bethlehem resident, artist and poet, said the new area is called “the gallery.”
“In January 2010, we held our first visiting artist series,” Caywood said. “Judy Rider was our first visiting artist. The response was overwhelming.”
The library’s gallery is booked through August 2013. Art exhibits stay up for two months. An opening reception is held the first Thursday of the month of the installation.
“We pack it in,” Caywood said. “It’s hard to imagine and hard to explain. It’s such a tiny library, but we get everybody in it.”
Artists have their own following, so each time the art changes, new folks come into the library to see the exhibit. Impressed with the library, many join.
Caywood is the driving force for Friends of the Library and the visiting artists series. He and his wife, Judy, volunteer at the library, so it was natural for Caywood to ask the branch manager of the library if she’d be receptive to art exhibits and poetry readings.
Laura Crooks, branch manager at the time, gave Caywood the go ahead under the condition that he make it work.
“Within a week, I had the library booked for one year,” Caywood said.
Friends of the Library was formed in 2011, under the leadership and direction of Caywood.
“We made some purchases for the library, we’re one of the sponsors of the visiting artist and poet series, and we hold a successful book sale each year,” he said.
Chris Lee, current branch manager, said folks who come in for the art almost always return.
“Friends of the Library membership numbers 100,” Lee said. “Folks come back for the library. Many weren’t aware of the library, so it’s an opportunity for us to reach out.”
Lee said the library has more than 11,500 items and more than 500 DVD titles. In addition to Lee, the staff includes Gloria Hamilton and Debbie Smith.
“We all like to read, but we’re all too busy to read,” Lee said. “We also offer a preschool storytime on Mondays at 10 a.m.”
Poetry readings are held the third Tuesday in February.
With all the activity, Caywood, Lee and the staff keep an eye on the future.
“We’re always looking for other opportunities,” Caywood said.
Monday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesday: noon-7 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thursday: noon-7 p.m.
Bethlehem Branch Library is located at 45 Rink Dam Road, Bethlehem.
For information, call 828-495-8753.
“The Exhibiting Artist Series” at Bethlehem Branch Library, features The Brush & Palette Club of Lenoir from Dec. 1 through Jan. 26. The exhibition, entitled “Collaboration,” includes the work of 19 artists in various mediums. An opening reception to meet the artists will be Thursday, Dec. 1, from 5:30-7 p.m., gallery talk at 6 p.m.