(Travis Gulbrandson/Vermillion Plain Talk)
By Travis Gulbrandson
For close to three weeks now, patrons of the Vermillion Public Library have had the opportunity to get their first inside look at the building's new expansion.
And while it offers such incentives as lots of natural light, increased space and a fireplace, the project isn't finished, as the older portion of the building is now being renovated.
"It's a bit crowded right now because we had to move everything into (the new) area," City Manager John Prescott said. "Once the entire building has been renovated, then we will be moving a lot of those items back."
Despite the close quarters, Prescott encourages Vermillion residents to come and check it out.
"This will provide an opportunity for people to see the new main floor," he said. "We have bookshelves, there's the fireplace, the seating area, the restrooms – all of that is newly constructed."
The opening came on the heels of a two-week period in which the library was closed, and all the materials from the old building were moved into the new portion, either on shelves or in basement storage.
"In that time, we moved everything – and I mean everything," said library director Jane Larson. "All the staff pitched in and helped. They all shelved, they all moved items. We moved all our desks in here. Everybody had to set up their own work area again, and help hook up all the computers.
"We did not get Internet or phone until Monday morning when we opened, and the phones came on at five minutes to 10, and we got Internet at 9, so it was down to the wire," she said.
Work on the building continues as it has most of the year. On Monday cement was poured in what will be the new community room, and the contractor hopes to have a new support pillar installed there by the end of the week, Larson said.
"They've got a lot of walls studded up … and framework, so you can see where things are," she said. "They're working on some drainage issues we had in the old building, putting in new drainage through the floor. The floor is cement, so it all had to be jackhammered, so for the last two weeks we had jackhammers running most of the day."
When the entire project is completed, there will be 12 public access computers and a work computer for each member of the library staff.
The community room will have been expanded, with its own restroom and storage room, the southern entrance will be wider and have an automatic door and there will be separate areas for teens and technology, Larson said.
In addition, the library foundation hopes to put a mini park behind the Carnegie building to replace the park that workers had to dig up, and the Friends of the Library will open a used bookstore in the basement, funds from which will go back to the library, she said.
The South Dakota Room will stay in the same place, as will the staff work area, Larson said.
Work officially began on March 5, when a city crew took out some trees and benches, and the contractor started digging out the basement.
"We've been really lucky," Larson said. "The weather has been really cooperative. The construction crew only missed about half a day of work when it was about 104 and they were working on the steel framing."
As with almost any large-scale project, there were a few surprises along the way.
"When they dug up the yard, they came across an old basement, so evidently when they built the building before, they just filled it in," Larson said. "They didn't dig it up. But we had to dig it up, so it cost us more money to get that cleaned out of there so we could put our pillars out front. We couldn't leave it there."
Fortunately, there were "no big hiccups," she said.
Both Larson and Prescott said patron reaction to the new space has been positive.
"They're anxious to see what the rest of it will bring," Larson said. "Most of them are excited, and they think it'll add a lot of pleasing aspects to the building."
Prescott said the fireplace in the adult reading area and the addition of skylights have been singled out in particular.
"I think the skylights that go through what will be the center of the building when it's all done will provide a lot of natural light, which is something the old library was kind of tight on," he said. "It's very bright and airy, versus the feeling that the old library had."
"The city should be very proud," Larson said.
The contract for the library's renovation said the project must be complete by April 1, 2013.