Flipping the page to a new chapter

Princeton Public Library is raising money for massive expansion project

A sign outside the library shows people how the library will change following its planned expansion.       Hannah Tetzlaff photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

The Princeton Public Library is turning the sod over and beginning a new chapter.

Since its construction in 1985, the library has received donations in hope of expanding one day. Last fall, the library’s hope took root as it officially launched an expansion project in celebration of its 30th anniversary.

According to librarian Clairellyn Sommersmith, the library’s programs have flourished over the years, but its space remained the same.

“Our library is currently 2,860 square feet,” she said. “The surrounding libraries in the area are about three times that big. It is not even because of comparison and we want to be like the other libraries; it’s because we don’t have the space for what we want to be doing.”

The library offers many programs and events for children and adults, including summer reading programs, book clubs, coloring clubs, live music performances, game nights and lectures.

Community organizations like 4-H and Girl Scouts also use the library after hours.

Through the expansion, the library wishes to make the limited space more beneficial and functional.

“We would like to have a room where we could have programs, which we currently don’t have,” Sommersmith said. “We have to move all the stuff out of the children’s area and have the programs there. We would like to actually have windows back … All of our bookshelves are in our windows. We would like to have a computer section for kids and adults. Currently, all four of our computers are in the storage room or what was the storage room.”

The building is expanding into the lot next door, meaning the library is tearing down its west wall and constructing a duplicate area on the other side. The foundation will remain the same, but the façade will be altered a little in regard to the adjoined lot.

Along with the extra space, the library is creating a multi-purpose room, attached to the back of the new area. The location of the room enables the library to keep the space open for the community — even after working hours — while still closing off the rest of the building. This makes the room perfect for hosting programs, events and local organizations.

Although the multi-purpose room is being built in the back, the library still intends to keep the garden, which is behind the building, but transform it into a patio.

Besides the physical construction, the library is increasing materials such as books, DVDs, CDs and laptops.

“We currently have four computers and four laptops,” Sommersmith said. “We’re hoping to double that and have four computers just dedicated for kids and four computers just dedicated for adults. Because it is such a small space, it is hard for kids to have fun and use the computers how they want to without disrupting the adults.”

The materials will increase a little, but the main focus of the expansion is to provide more space to hold what the library already has.

All these changes and additions won’t occur until 2018, since a large project like this is costly and the library is still fund-raising.

“It is a $900,000 project,” Sommersmith said. “We are mostly looking for community donations, local and beyond that. We’re hoping that a fourth of the cost will be covered by grants. We will do most of our grant writing next year because [with] grants you have to use that money within the year following, so our plan is to fundraise until the end of 2017 and break ground in 2018.”

Sommersmith noted that the library already has raised $300,000 — a third of the cost — and is anticipating receiving numerous small checks or donations.

However, if someone had a stash of $400,000 or more, then he or she could have the library named. Also, for $150,000, an individual can name the multi-purpose room.

Others who donate more than $200 are acknowledged by the library with a permanent place on its honor roll of recognition.

To help with fund-raising, the Princeton Public Library is hosting events such as the pig roast and raffle that occurred July 10 and the golf outing Monday, Aug. 8, where it will hand out giveaways and gift certificates.

The hardest part about fund-raising for the expansion, Sommersmith said, is convincing people the value of a library to a community.

“There is a lot in this culture that has this stereotype that you don’t need libraries because there’s the internet, or you don’t need libraries because nobody reads anymore … but that’s just wrong,” she said. “2011, 2012 was one of our most active years this library has ever had in its existence. In times when the economy is not doing well, libraries are hugely important … Libraries are always a crucial aspect in helping the education of kids beyond the school.”

In 2014 alone, 41,195 items were checked out from the library, illustrating how popular the service is in small-town Princeton.

Through the expansion, Sommersmith desires to honor those who have seen the importance of the library and donated money or services toward the cause.

“I just want to build a building that people who have donated are proud of and are thrilled about what their donation was able to accomplish,” she said.

Sommersmith noted that even if the library doesn’t reach its goal of $900,000, an expansion will still occur in 2018.

Those who would like to donate can make a pledge using the expansion brochure at the library, write a check out to the library or search for library on generosity.com and pay with a credit/debit card.

Donations are tax deductible.