Perhaps no one in the Vermillion community fit the definition of a bibliophile more than Edith Siegrist.
One of her last acts before her July 31 passing will ensure that others in Vermillion and the surrounding area who love the written word as much as she did will always have access to it.
On July 18, Mayor Jack Powell announced to the V
ermillion City Council that an anonymous donor had provided $800,000 to help fund the planned expansion of the Vermillion City Library.
The donor wished to stay out of the limelight, Powell noted, adding that eventually, when the time is right, recognition would be given to this secret friend of the library.
Two weeks later, Siegrist, 86, died in the Sanford Vermillion Hospital, knowing that city leaders were to put her money to good use to accomplish a project she was passionate about.
For a number of years, weve been trying to add on and renovate our current public library, Powell said last month. As the case is with most projects, one of the holdups is money. Last year, the city council set aside $1.4 million toward the project. Engineering estimates came in at about twice that, and so we were kind of stymied, because we just did not have anymore money.
Powell said he received a call several months ago from a financial advisor in Vermillion who inquired about the status of the library project. The mayor told him it was on hold because of the funding issue.
The question was would a sizeable donation have any impact? and I said, I would need to have a definition of what is sizeable, Powell said.
The planner replied, How about $800,000?
Powell said that would give a green light to the library expansion project.
Powell said it was decided, after discussion with City Manager John Prescott and members of the city council, that with the pursuit of additional funding, perhaps in the form of a grant, the city would have adequate money to pursue the library expansion project.
It is with great pleasure that I announce that we have such a gift, he said.
Siegrist, who was educated in a one-room schoolhouse and worked as clerk and an elementary school teacher, eventually became a renowned librarian in South Dakota.
She received her masters of library science and graduated with high honors from the University of Denver. After working for six years as a school librarian in Lansing, MI, she began a 24-year career as librarian science professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
Her honors include a Distinguished Alumni Award from Huron College, a distinguished Service Award from the Mountain Plains Library Association, the South Dakota Librarian of the Year Award in 1988 (the year of her retirement) by the South Dakota Library Association, and together with her co-worker and friend, Elaine Meyer, was honored as Extraordinary South Dakota Librarian of the 20th Century by the American Library Association.
She and Miss Meyer helped to develop the masters degree program at USD. They also took pride in the contribution their students made to South Dakota libraries.
At the time of Siegrists donation, the city had obtained a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant award, and had $1.4 million of second penny sales tax revenue available.
We regret that Edith will not see the completion of the fruits of her generous donation in the construction and renovation, Powell said. He noted that Vermillions residents will enjoy the impact of her gift for decades to come.
Neither the Vermillion City Council nor our residents can truly appreciate the magnitude of Ediths gift. She has provided a legacy gift through the library renovation and expansion project that will make Vermillion a better place for generations to come, he said.
In July, the Vermillion City Council authorized an architectural firm to proceed with the design and to prepare bid specifications. The city plans to break ground for the project before the end of the year.
I think this is exciting for our community, and this is just a tremendous gift above and beyond what we could ever expect, the mayor said.
City Manager John Prescott said the available sales tax revenue, the block grant and Siegrists donation combined provides just under $2.4 million to construct the library addition and renovation.
The architects estimate last year when they developed a schematic design for another grant application came up with a project of about $3 million, and obviously were talking about a $600,000 gap, Prescott said. I want to clarify, though, that we arent really talking about that gap. That $3 million price tag included the architectural fees, and to date the library board has been paying all of those.
That $3 million estimate also included some sidework and landscaping, which the city will be able to do on its own to save money, Prescott said.
Local funding will be needed to cover contingency funding for the architect, and an alternative to the bid that may allow, if needed in the future, a second floor to be added to the library.
Some needed fixtures for the library addition are included in the $3 million budget proposed by the architect for the project. One way to lessen the citys expenses will be through a fundraising campaign for needed items in the expanded library that dont fall under the category of brick and mortar.
Roger Kozak, co-chair of this campaign to raise local funds for the library project, noted the Siegrists donation, along with the funds budgeted by the city through taxes and grant revenue, should take care of the construction part of the library expansion.
With all of that good financing in place, now we need to look at the furnishings, he said.
Kozak said the fundraising campaign has a goal of raising $200,000.
You might say, wow, thats a lot of money. But I really look at that as not being a large sum when you consider what it is you are going to be receiving in our community, he said. So our challenge will be to go out to raise the necessary funds to acquire those furnishings.
To do that, I think that all of us have to be aware that the needs of the library continue to change year after year after year, Kozak said.
Todays libraries feature technological advances ranging from computers to internet access, and they serve people of all ages from infants to retired people, he said.
They are truly resources that help us get through our daily lives, Kozak said. It is important that Vermillion not only have a library like that to support its citizenry, but also to support the region. This is a first class project, and we want to see that the furnishings that go into this library expansion project are first class.
The fundraising effort is in its formative stages, he said. We want to give everyone an opportunity to perhaps leave a legacy of their own.
That could be done by people who are able to give larger gifts to the library to fund development of specific areas of the interior.
We also want to extend that downward as far as we can, Kozak said. Hopefully, we can get classes of students in our public schools to put a project together to help fund, for example, something in the area of technology.
The expanded library will need tables and chairs for both adults and children, stacks, shelving and other furnishings.
There is a lot of work to be done, he said, but Im confident that our community will rally around our need to make our library the first class facility that it needs to be.
Kozak said it is hoped to have over 90 percent of the fundraising campaign complete in about three months time.
Theres no reason to kid around. Its our community we want the library board to be there, he said, speaking in terms of local revenue-raising activity, we want the library foundations members to be there, we want the business community to be there, and I think they will be.