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The new Clarence library is expected to open in June, and efforts to raise money to furnish it are in the final stretch. Everyone from local businesses to schoolchildren are pitching in.

Children, in fact, have done more than their share, according to Friends of Clarence, which is organizing fund-raising efforts.

Children from town elementary schools have been raising money through read-a-thons. And one of the schools read more books in one month on the library's behalf than some people read in a lifetime.

Pupils at Harris Hill Elementary School accepted a challenge from the school's Parent Teacher Organization, which offered to make a donation to the library in the school's name if the young readers participated in a read-a-thon.

The school's approximately 395 pupils read 2,435 books in addition to 3,022 chapters in chapter books, according to PTO President Michelle Valone.

"I'm so proud of them," Valone said.

On behalf of the young readers, the PTO is donating $1,000 -- enough to buy a granite block with the school's name on it to be part of the library's front walk and courtyard.

The library has sold more than 100 of these $1,000 blocks and another 500 bricks at $150 each as part of the fund-raising effort.

The goal is to raise $800,000 to cover the library's furnishings, shelving, computer workstations and special collections for children and adults, according to Judy Hilburger, with the Friends of Clarence.

The fund-raising committee has reached about 90 percent of its goal, and is now making a final push for the rest of the money, Hilburger said.

The library is being built by the Town of Clarence at a cost of $3.4 million. Erie County will then operate the library as part of the Buffalo and Erie County library system.

The new library is being built next to Town Hall, on Old Goodrich Road. It will be 17,000 square feet in size -- more than twice as big as the existing 8,000-square-foot Clarence library. Its book collection will increase to 72,000 volumes from the current 35,000. Its Internet access computers will increase to 15 from the current eight.

The new and bigger library is needed, supporters say, to keep up with the town's growth, which has gone from 13,000 residents in 1965 to 23,000 in 1999. During that time, annual circulation at the town library has grown to 240,000 from 35,000, according to Friends of Library figures.

In addition to the expanded book collection, the new library will offer more tapes and films. There will also be a community room open to a variety of uses, including Toddler Story hour, baby-sitting classes, Scout meetings and volunteer income tax assistance.

The library will also feature a fountain by local artist Danna Iadoviero and a glass tree by local glass artist Victor Trabucco.

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