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Friends host wine tasting fund-raiser to beautify the outside of the library

By Michelle Symington

Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD The Friends of the West Springfield Library have begun a project to beautify the outside of the library and are calling on the community to help.

The Friends will host their first ever wine tasting fund-raiser this Friday to support the beautification project, which has already begun with improvements along the front building on Park Street as well as on Elm Street.

Liz Sokel, president of the Friends, explained that members of the organization wanted to do something in honor of the library's 90th birthday, which will take place in 2006.

The Friends hired a landscape architect, Tom Ellmore, to design the improvements. The group also hired Ann Wellington, a landscape designer, who brought all of the plants to the library to be planted.

Along with Wellington, many of the library's staff members volunteered their time and energy to plant the flowers and bushes in front of the library, Sokel said.

She added that the long-range plan is to make improvements from the around the entire building.

She said that some of the new plantings in front of the library represent the 1916 time period in honor of the Carnegie portion of the library.

Sokel explained that Andrew Carnegie gave funds to communities throughout the Unites States to build libraries. In return, communities were responsible for supplying the books, she added.

Sokel said she "loves" the windows of the library that face the Town Green and the idea is to make the building more noticeable.

"We are into architecture and preserving the past," she said.

So far, many of the old shrubs have been removed and replaced with other flowers and plants. Sokel said that 200 to 300 tulip bulbs and about 400 crocus bulbs have been planted.

"In the spring there will be a sea of red and blue," she said. "Each season there will be new plantings."

Although much of the improvements have been made, Sokel said there is still work to do in the future.

She said that there is a very old beech tree on the side of the building that is currently blocked by another tree that is dead. The dead tree will be removed. The walkways will also be improved.

The Friends borrowed the funds from the organization's building fund, which was created for future expansion of the library or a new building, to complete the landscape improvements and are now trying to raise money to replace it.

"We wanted to raise $100,000," she said, in reference to the building fund.

"We only had $25,000 and now we are trying to make it up," she added.

The cost if the landscape project was about $20,000, according to Sokel. The group is now trying to raise that amount and the wine tasting is the first attempt to do so.

Sokel said she hopes to raise $7,000 from the wine tasting.

She said the Friends have never hosted a wine tasting and the group wanted to bring people in who do not ordinarily visit the library to see all that goes on there.

She explained that the library is no longer just for borrowing books. She said there are now programs, computers and events.

"People do not understand that it is now a community center," she said.

The wine tasting will take place at the library and is sponsored by Bertelli's Liquor Inc.

Seven vendors will take part in the event and there will be raffles as well.

Sokel said that she expects the Friends will have to spend about $1,000 on the event, which will include renting the glasses, table cloths, raffle tickets, invitations and other expenses.

She said that ticket sales are great and "everyone in town is excited." She added that the raffle tickets are also "going hot."

Music will be provided by Tom Coburn and artwork will be featured on the walls of the library.

In addition to the wine, coffee and doughnuts or cookies will be offered as people leave the event.

Sokel said that planning the event is "exciting, fun and a lot of work."

The wine tasting will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the library, which is located at 200 Park Street.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at the main service desk at the library or by calling Sokel at 788-4712.

Checks can be made payable to the Friends of WSPL. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.

"It should be a real fun evening for the town," Sokel said.