The wait is over.
After years of planning and fundraising, and months of construction, the Wonewoc Public Library’s renovated and expanded library is open and ready to serve the public.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. We couldn’t be happier,” said library Director Kim Dearth on Tuesday morning as she stood in the bright, open space behind a large new circulation desk in the expanded area.
The expansion, which added to the original building built in 1939, features improved children’s and young adult’s sections, a Community Room with a kitchenette, an elevator, handicap-accessible ground access, two large restrooms, water fountains and a parking lot behind the building.
The update has been long anticipated by community members and something Dearth said she believes the residents of Wonewoc needed. Since its opening on Nov. 4, Dearth said the library has been packed.
“That very first day we opened, the bike rack was completely full. It was amazing. I’ve never seen that before, and it hasn’t slowed down since,” Dearth said.
The total cost of the work, which began April 15, was $750,000. So far, the Friends of the Library have raised approximately $650,000, Dearth said.
The additional $100,000 came from the village of Wonewoc, which agreed to supply the funds under the assumption that the Friends of the Library will eventually raise the money and repay the village. Dearth said she does not anticipate the Friends having any problems coming up with the money.
“Everyone has been so supportive in backing the project. I think when people come in and see the space and see that it is a community center –- it’s not even just a library, it’s a place for people to gather –- that it will come through,” Dearth said.
Despite a wet spring, the expansion was completed on time and the weather may have ended up being a positive for the library.
“That really held things up, but I’m thankful,” Dearth said. “If it had been a dry summer, maybe we wouldn’t have taken the precautions that we did. Now we’re pretty much prepared for any kind of flooding issues that could potentially happen, so that’s a good thing.”
The expansion aimed to solve several problems with the old building, such as a lack of space for children and teens, or space for community gatherings and events. Although the Community Room still awaits a refrigerator and microwave, and the children’s and young adult’s sections have some items of furniture yet to be delivered, already the space has made using the library easier for patrons.
“We have an elevator now so that’s huge, we also have a parking lot so you can come in at ground level in the back and come up the elevator,” Dearth said. “Before, with us only having steps, it was impossible for some people to even come in.”
David Murray of Union Center said the expansion makes the building feel new and exciting.
“It’s fresh. It’s airy, there are lots of lights, the windows are very nice – it’s all very nice and new,” Murray said.
Although a date hasn’t yet been set, Dearth said the library is planning an open house in the near future.
“I haven’t heard anyone say they don’t like it,” Murray said.