By Travis Gulbrandson
It was standing room only at the newly-christened Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library, which had its dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon, the culmination of years of planning and work.
It also was a day to thank those who helped on each of the project’s various stages, including those who passed away prior to its completion.
“Congratulations to you,” said Jon Flanagin, president of the library’s board of trustees. “It is a great thing to have the Vermillion Public Library expansion and remodeling, and we are ready to move into the new world with the new public library.”
Sen. Tim Johnson echoed these statements, noting, “At a time when libraries across the country are facing budget cuts and difficult decisions, I’m pleased to see the Vermillion library growing and thriving.”
“It’s been a long time planning for our community with the library board and the library staff. It’s a project we’ve been working on for many, many years, and it’s nice to see it result in this sort of … community celebration,” added City Manager John Prescott. “It’s been a truly community effort of funds, staff and people to make this happen.”
Thanks to the expansion and renovation, the library has more than doubled its size, with 22,890 square feet, as opposed to the 11,000 it was previously, said library director Jane Larson in a prior interview with the Vermillion Plain Talk.
Among other upgrades, the library has a new circulation desk, a lounge area complete with a fireplace, an expanded community room, automatic doors at the southern entrance and separate areas for teens and technology.
The project was a long time in the making, remembered Vermillion Mayor Jack Powell.
Even after the city council set aside more than $1 million to aid in construction and a Community Development Block Grant that brought in $192,500 was awarded, the project was still “dead in the water,” he said.
That is, it was without the aid of Edith B. Siegrist, longtime Vermillion resident and professor of library science at the University of South Dakota.
Siegrist bequeathed more than $800,000 to the project two weeks before she passed away in 2011.
“The project was estimated to be about $3 million, and with the contribution of Edith Siegrist – which turned out to be more like $1 million – and the contributions of many of you people here today, this is what we were able to accomplish,” Powell said. “I applaud all of you for your contributions.
“The successful completion of this magnificent structure is the result of cooperative efforts of many, including the library board, Friends of the Library, the library foundation, staff, volunteers and the City of Vermillion,” he said.
In addition to Siegrist others who were singled out for their efforts included Jerry Johnson and the late Roger Kozak, who co-chaired the library board fundraiser that secured the money for furnishings for the project.
The library’s community room has been named in Kozak’s honor.
Library staff members also were thanked in a statement from the state library director, Daria Bossman, which was read by Jane Healy, electronic services coordinator for the South Dakota State Library.
“Each of you have worked tirelessly, for not just years, but decades serving cheerfully and faithfully in cramped conditions, dreaming, hoping and striving toward this goal of an expanded and remodeled, modern 21st century public library,” she read. “This day is for you. Thank you for your faithfulness, your dedication, your vision and your hard work.”
A native of Vermillion, Sen. Johnson said he has many memories of visiting the library and checking out books as a child.
“The library is often the place where we start to experience the wider world around us,” he said. “Libraries expose us to new ideas, great art and aesthetic locations to teach us about a world different than our own. Those are important experiences, especially for young people, and that is why those early memories are often so strong.
“By dedicating this new addition and renovation, we’re helping to ensure that today’s children have the opportunity to create the same memories for themselves,” he said.
Also in the program was a performance by Gretchen Burbach and the outgoing second-graders from Jolley Elementary School.
MidAmerican Energy contributed to the funding of the open house event, while the cost of catering was defrayed by Hy-Vee and Mister Smith’s Café and Catering.