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Surprise donation brings cheer to local libraries

by Brandon Roberts & Western News
| December 31, 2008 11:00 PM

A surprise donation brought extra Christmas cheer to area libraries this holiday season.

Roger Barenz presented a $20,000 gift in mid-December – $10,000 to the Lincoln County Library in Libby and $5,000 each to the Libby and Troy school libraries.

Barenz, who lived in Libby through grade school, spent much of his time in the library. His mother recently died and she requested that some of the estate money be donated to the libraries.

County library director Sami Pierson said Barenz and his family were big library users and it “must have made a lasting impression on all of them.”

“Christmas came early to the libraries this year,” Pierson said. “It was an incredible surprise.”

Pierson said the library website went up the end of November and included a wish list. She said Barenz contacted her and asked, “How would you like it if I donated all of this?”

The list included automatic door openers, new headphones for all the computers, a renewed subscription to the Heritage Quest genealogy database and replacement microfilm of historic Libby newspapers.

The doors are expected to be finished in the spring, the headphones have been ordered and the genealogy database is up and running, Pierson said.

Kay Randall, the K-12 librarian for Troy schools, received $5,000 from the Barenz estate. She said the money would be split 50-50 between the elementary and the junior high/high school.

Randall said when Barenz called, they were able to share some nostalgia. Barenz had gone to college with her father, Al.

“This is an area that has always been near and dear to (Barenz) hearts,” Randall said. “When he told me about the donation, I was literally speechless, which doesn’t happen to me very often.”

Randall said the money would be spent on a combination of books, technology – such as the World Book encyclopedia online – and infrastructure.

Marlene Kelsch, Libby High School librarian, accepted the donation on behalf of the Libby Public Schools. She said the $5,000 would be distributed between the schools.

“We are excited to have this money to benefit our students,” Kelsch said.

Asa Wood Elementary will receive $1,500 for new books. Libby Middle School will spend their portion on books, chairs and up-to-date reference materials. LHS will buy a new laptop for use by students, a laser printer and a digital projector.

Kelsch said the students have been using laptops they refer to as “old and slows.”  She said the new computer would be available for students to check out.

“We looked at our students needs and made our decisions based off of that,” she said.

Kelsch said Barenz and his siblings started reading under the guidance of longtime Lincoln County librarian Inez Herrig. Kelsch said Herrig was special to him and his family and that is why the libraries remain so special.

“We really appreciate it,” Kelsch said. “These were things we couldn’t buy on our own, things we needed. It is special to have money to spend on student needs, such a blessing.”