Robert Allen Memorial Listening Center


Funds raised since last December in memory of Clare businessman and community leaded Robert Allen have added an Apple computer for classes, books, and a new state-of-the-art book reader for the Children’s Library at the Peré Marquette District Library in Clare.

Hundreds of people donated to the Robert Allen Memorial said Library Director Sheila Bissonnette. “We have used $2,500 of the funds raised for the new books and technology.”

The new children’s book reader, in use since mid-June, is unique in the United States and possibly the first one of its kind anywhere. It was designed and built by Information Technology Director Nick Loomis. “We looked everywhere for something that would read a whole book and be easy to use for the youngsters,” Bissonnette said. “The only thing we found that was close to what we wanted was a history reader at The Henry Ford Museum and a reader for excerpts from books at Barnes and Noble.”

The new system is easy to use, with a “touch screen” to select the book, and headphones to listen and read along. Four children can sit on a comfy sofa at the same time and use the system together, each with their own copy of the story.

“We have six books on the system now,” Bissonnette said, listing Good Night Moon, Curious George, Make Way For Ducklings, Alexander and The Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Where the Wild Things Are and Skippyjon Jones.

Loomis added, “We can add more or change the selection anytime. “It is easy,” Loomis said, “kids just put on the headphones, touch a picture of the book on the screen and read along with the book.”

Above the reader is a new “mural” sign, the “Robert Allen Memorial Listening Center, which is an original designed by Professional Graphic Design Artist Bradley Bechtel of Standish.

That isn’t the only thing new at the library. The Allen Memorial Fund also purchased $1,100 in new books for the Children’s Library including several series’ including Harry Potter, the Magic Treehouse and Pinkalicious books and funds also purchased a learning computer for adult training classes, an Apple, which was a favorite of Bob Allen’s.

The memorial fund is still active, Bissonnette said. Additional funds will be used for future projects in the Children’s Library section.

Bissonnette has been the Library Director for the past 18 years. She moved to Clare from the Chicago area and with husband Paul, and the couple have raised two children here.

Loomis has been with the library for two years and lives in Clare. He said his family is originally from the Clare-Farwell area and he lived here as a youngster before the family moved to Standish, where he grew up.


A message from the Allen Family

You may remember when my dad, Clare businessman Robert Allen, died in a car crash just before Christmas.

After his death, his family created a memorial fund in his honor in conjunction with the Pere Marquette District Library in Clare. Dad loved to read, and reading to his grandchildren will always be a favorite family memory. More than 200 friends, family and businesses from Clare and from across the country — contributed to the fund.

Earlier this month, that memorial fund came full circle when his four grandchildren and other family members were the first to visit the Robert Allen Memorial Listening Center at the library.

The listening center — a touchscreen computer connected to headphones that reads audiobooks to children as they browse the pages of the books on a comfy couch nearby — was specially designed by the library, and director Sheila Bissonnette says it is possibly the first of its kind anywhere in the nation.

In addition, the library used money from the fund to create an Apple computer lab at the library. (My dad was an Apple guy from the early 1980s, when he bought us our first one for Christmas.)

The funds also contributed to purchasing four specific sets of childrens' books for the library. 

Dad would be humbled by the generosity of the donors but, to be honest, also geeked at the creative way we (with the help of the library) were able to put the funding to use. 


Krisitin Bull (Robert Allen’s Daughter)