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February 08, 2011 8:49 am

Renovated Powell Branch Library opens

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Frank Palazzalo (left) enjoys a book while other Powell residents, Robert and Jean Sherman, peruse new arrivals during the Powell Branch Library’s first open day after the recent remodel. The library was closed during the month of January and reopened to the public Monday morning with a new look and new books. Frank Palazzalo (left) enjoys a book while other Powell residents, Robert and Jean Sherman, peruse new arrivals during the Powell Branch Library’s first open day after the recent remodel. The library was closed during the month of January and reopened to the public Monday morning with a new look and new books. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Turning over a new leaf

Walking into the freshly remodeled Powell Branch Library Monday morning, Sandy McGee’s eyes widened as she exclaimed, “Wow, it looks so much bigger!”

The library was closed for the past month as crews renovated the building, installing new carpet and repainting the interior. As patrons discovered Monday morning, however, the library’s new look is much more than carpet and paint.

“It’s a facelift — a major facelift,” said Frances Clymer, director of the Park County Library System. “It more than lives up to my expectations, and I’m delighted with it.”

“It looks like they rebuilt the place,” said McGee, a Powell patron who visited the library within an hour of its reopening. “They did an outstanding job, they really did.”

The entire layout of the library was reconfigured during the project. In addition to the updated carpet and new paint colors, patrons will notice wider book aisles, a new quiet reading area, more open space to accommodate the meeting room and other updates.

The library also features two gallery spaces, where artists from the community can showcase their work.

“It isn’t the old library that everyone is used to,” said Lisa Printz, branch librarian.

While the renovation process for the 15,000-square-foot building took more than a month, planning for the renovations and redesign has been in the works for years.

When Printz took the job as branch librarian in August 2009, one of her first goals was to make the Powell library compliant with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulations.

“We weren’t at all ADA-compliant before,” Printz said.

For example, the book aisles were only three feet wide or less in some cases, making it difficult for patrons who use a walker or wheelchair.

“To really maneuver a wheelchair, you need four feet,” Printz said.

In both the children’s and adult sections of the library, spacious four-foot wide paths separate bookshelves.

“We want it to be a library that everyone in the community can enjoy using and browsing,” Printz said. She noted the library also will feature new signs that will be easier to read for patrons who have vision problems. The new signs hadn’t arrived by Monday’s reopening, but will be installed soon.

Mayor Scott Mangold said he is glad the library is more accommodating to residents with disabilities. Visiting the remodeled library Monday morning, Mangold called it “very inviting.”

The cost for the entire project was around $65,000, Clymer said, with more than half coming from the Park County Library Foundation and Park County providing the remaining funding.

The Powell library utilized new carpet leftover from the Cody library project, so that helped keep the cost down, Clymer said.

New carpet in the staff area, the meeting room and part of the children’s section was leftover from the Cody project.

Residents will see other similarities between the two libraries.

“Our color scheme is the same as Cody’s,” Printz said.

The library board and staff have been “looking to have a branding of the library system, so they have a similar feeling when you walk in, and I think we’ve succeeded in that,” Clymer said.

Renovations also are planned for the Meeteetse library, but since that branch is located in a school, Wyoming’s School Facilities Commission will determine the extent of those updates, Clymer said.

The renovations for the Powell branch were a long time coming, Clymer said.

“Powell has needed this for years,” Clymer said. “The last time anything major was done (for the library) was more than 20 years ago.”

After decades of wear and tear, carpet in the adult section was beginning to buckle in high-traffic areas, Printz said. Some patrons complained about the condition, and Printz said it was a liability, as people could trip over areas where the carpet had buckled.

“The back of the carpet was starting to disintegrate,” she said. “The reality was, we couldn’t put it off any longer.”

During the renovation, crews also addressed cracks in the walls and other maintenance issues with the aging structure.

Given the extent of the remodel, the facility was closed to the public for more than a month.

Printz said she worried about the books’ spines cracking in freezing temperatures in a storage unit or the possibility of a trailer not being water-tight, so all the library material was kept inside the building during the remodel. To accommodate the work in various parts of the library, the tens of thousands of books were moved as many as five to seven times, Printz said.

Books that hadn’t been checked out for decades were removed from the shelves over the past month.

“We weeded out titles as we were putting the library back together,” Printz said.

For the most part, residents were understanding about the month-long closure, Printz said.

“Most people didn’t realize how much we were doing,” Printz said.

While the library was closed, employees tackled a backlog of work that had accumulated while the library was short-staffed in recent months. They also set up a work station in a back room, where they were able to catalogue material and process books for patrons, and some Powell staff members also helped at the Cody library.

The Powell library will celebrate a grand reopening later this spring, once all the final pieces come together, Printz said.

“The bulk of it is done, and now it’s just fine-tuning,” Printz said.

The library’s regular activities resume this week, including story time for children today (Tuesday) at 10:30 a.m.

Patrons who braved icy roads and cold temperatures on a snowy Monday were pleased with the library’s new look.

“I think it’s fabulous. It’s almost like a new building. There’s so much more room,” said Bob Grater of Powell, who donates large-print books to the Powell library after he completes them.

Printz said she hopes the community will see the remodeled facility as “a library that’s truly welcoming and easy to use.”

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