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Williams Bay library finishes new look

Patti Stilin, children's librarian at Barrett Memorial Library, Williams Bay, greets a patron at the library's new checkout desk.

February 29, 2012 | 07:51 AM
WILLIAMS BAY — Without adding much in the way of new space, Barrett Memorial Library now seems like someplace new.

Aisles between bookshelves are wider, eliminating that "used book store" feeling. Hallways are no longer crowded by computer stations. And not a corner of the building is untouched by daylight.

Then there's that elevator.

Library staff is still getting used to their new offices and the new check out desk.

Library Director Ann Becker's new downstairs office is still a bit cluttered. Some stuff moved from the old upstairs office still needs to find a home.

Behind her chair, right above the Dr. Seuss artwork is a favorite Gilda Radner saying, "It's always something."

In this case, something good, Becker said.

By moving a few walls, repurposing of some rooms and moving shelves and stacks, whole areas were opened up.

The library is renewed, with expanded departments in the basement and the library director's old office on the main floor is now a computer room with three stations.

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By rearranging shelving, the main floor looks much larger. The main aisle is wider, giving a clear view from the checkout desk at the main entrance to the fireplace at the far wall.

"I have people say to me, 'You added a fireplace,'" Becker said. But that fireplace has been there since the building opened in 1965, she said. And gas jets were added to it, so it can function like a real fireplace on cold winter days, she added.

Becker's new office was once storage. It's smaller than her old office and doesn't have windows.

She still needs to find places to put all her stuff.

Yet it seems brighter than her old office, both from the wall of windows facing in from the south and the new coat of yellow paint on the walls.

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And, while the renovation work was completed in early January, Becker said that the new library furniture has yet to be purchased.

The village's Recreation Department will also move out soon and into new offices in the Lions Fieldhouse, which will give the library another meeting room and storage for its historical collection, Becker said.

The library renovation involved only a minor change to the building's footprint, the addition of an elevator to make the basement handicapped accessible.

The elevator, installed by Advance Elevator of Big Bend, is just wide enough for a wheelchair. Speed from ground to main floor is hardly breathtaking. It makes its landing with a solid "thunk."

Becker said that sound concerned some members of the Village Board, but after a check-up by Advance Elevator, it works fine, she said.

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Library walls, once painted a dull gray, were repainted a bright yellow, and blinds were removed from the windows.

Finally, the wall behind the checkout desk was removed, exposing a roof to floor wall of windows behind that floods the stairway and main entrance with daylight.

"I had someone come up and say, 'You oughta put stained glass in there,'" Becker said.

No way, she replied. "I like the light just like it is," Becker said.

Renovations began in August. Work was completed two weeks after Christmas, Becker said.

Total cost of the renovation came to about $304,000, almost all of it paid out of the village reserve fund, Becker said.

"We didn't go much over budget, but we spent extra when the asbestos was found," Becker said.

The asbestos was in the floor tiles under the main floor carpeting, Becker said. It was even in the glue used to secure the carpeting to the floor.

The library stayed open during most of the renovation work, but was closed for about a week around Thanksgiving to give workers the space to safely remove the asbestos contaminated materials, Becker said.

It also gave workers time to lay down new carpeting and repaint the building, she said.

During the renovation, staff was shifting around materials, clearing areas under renovation and then moving them back into place once work was completed.

"We think we moved 90,000 books," said Becker. That means the staff moved the library's 30,000-item collection three times.

"The work went really well. We were really happy."

In addition to the noticeable changes, the library's heating system, which dated to the building's opening in 1965, was modernized, as was the air conditioning system/

The walls on both floors and the carpeting on the main floor hadn't been replaced since 1995.

Scherrer Construction of Burlington was the main contractor.

The building that now houses Barrett Memorial Library was opened in 1965, and, for nearly 30 years, functioned as the village's municipal building, housing the police department, the library, the Village Board meeting room and staff offices.


Tags: Geneva Lake West

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