Courtesy of the Harding Bison. 

Searcy Public Library officials announced Tuesday, Feb. 8, the name of the donor who helped kick start fundraising for renovations at the new location on Beebe Capps Expressway.

Longtime Searcy resident and businessman Larry Crain agreed to donate $2 million for a project to renovate the Searcy Public Library, according to Jean Ann Bell, the library board president. Bell revealed the donor’s name in a press conference at 10 a.m. outside the library’s new location at 954 Skyline Drive, which was previously home to the Searcy Athletic Club.

Bell said the new library would be named the Janett Crain Memorial Library in honor of Crain’s late wife, who worked with many service organizations in Searcy. At the conference, Crain and Barry Hoffmann, the architect for the project, unveiled a rendering of the new library’s exterior.

Bell said the new public space was designed for all Searcy residents to enjoy.

“It’s really a community center, and we want people to feel that way about it,” Bell said.

Crain said he wanted to support the library renovation so people would have access to free internet services and because the project could have a positive impact on the local economy and commerce. Crain said he was also inspired to donate to this project because his wife loved education, children and serving the community.

“So she’s really the heart of this,” Crain said.

Crain said he grew up in Searcy and went on to work in the accounting and business fields. He owns multiple companies, including one that oversees car dealerships throughout Arkansas, the Crain Automotive Team website said. He also owns Crain Media, which runs seven FM radio stations in the state.

Friends of the Library Foundation board member Jan Smith said the renovation project would cost $5.3 million, according to a 2021 feasibility study. The new library would contain 33,000 square feet, three times more than the current building on East Pleasure Avenue. The money would go towards adding a coffee shop, career center, space for teenagers and children, media program room, and other features to the library, Smith said.

“I envision this new library as a showplace for Searcy and a place we can all be proud to share,” Smith said.

The board unsuccessfully campaigned for a new public library in 2017, Smith said. In early 2021, the Searcy Athletic Club building became available, so library board members teamed up with city officials to fund the purchase of the building.

Regional library director Darla Ino said she was thrilled and surprised when she learned about Crain’s donation. She said the board hopes to reach 75% of their fundraising goal before advancing to the public phase of the renovation.

Library fundraising committee member Willie Abrams said he hoped Crain’s donation would encourage others to contribute money to renovating the library.

“This is a major gift to challenge others in Searcy to step up so that we can have this in our community,” Abrams said.