Library plans for opening of columbarium

WELLSBURG — Some area book lovers soon will have the opportunity to spend eternity in close proximity to a treasure trove of books.

The bibliophile’s dream destination is actually a columbarium erected outside a building addition that is under construction at the Brooke County Public Library’s main site in Wellsburg. A columbarium is a permanent structure containing sealed niches — small openings — where cremated remains are stored in urns in perpetuity.

Library Director Alexandra L. Eberle thinks the Wellsburg facility is the first library to hold a columbarium. The new columbarium — featuring niches built into a tall brick structure — is situated on the library’s grounds, in a small park-like setting overlooking the Ohio River.

She said, “So it is sort of neat to have this eclectic idea that a library has a columbarium on the property.”

Traditionally, this type of final resting place is located in a church, memorial park or cemetery.

“The construction/expansion, by the two local families who are paying for it, brought with it the chance to build a small columbarium. It is currently erected; however, the board needs to make policies and rules/regulations for how we will sell them, etc,” Eberle said.

The library’s board will hold a special meeting at noon on Tuesday in the Wellsburg facility’s Vincent Room to begin the process of formulating a policy for the sale of niches and rules for use of the columbarium.

Eberle said the project “will give the library a chance to get some small one-time revenue” with the selling of each niche.

Ground was broken on June 1 for the 4,000-square-foot addition to the Brooke County Public Library and the National American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum and Research Center, which is located within the library.

Wellsburg residents Jon and Jeanette Meriwether and Dave and Nancy Hubbard each donated $500,000 for the addition. The Charles and Thelma Pugliese Foundation of Steubenville awarded a $50,000 grant for the expansion project.

Regarding the columbarium’s roots, Eberle said, “The Meriwethers have built one before and pitched the idea to the board that it might be something unique for us to have and would be something they would be interested in themselves. It would also produce one-time revenues from each sale that would allow us to either invest the funds and/or purchases things we might need.”

Jon Meriwether, a founder of Merco Marine in Wellsburg, is a longtime supporter of the library.

The library addition, being built by Dan Hukill Contracting of Wellsburg, includes 3,000 square feet of display space for the ADBC museum, rooms for storage and preparation of the museum’s materials, a new River Room, a sound system for the library’s meeting rooms and updates to the building’s restrooms and heating system.

The museum honors U.S. military personnel who served in the Bataan Peninsula and on the island of Corregidor in the South Pacific during World War II.