Almost 13 years after Adel library and city officials came together with residents to discuss the possibility of a new library building, their vision is finally complete.
This year, library officials were able to finish the final half of the second floor of the building, located at 303 S. 10th St., with the help of private donations and money raised from bake sales and garage sales.
“It takes a while to get it done,” says Paula James, director of the Adel Public Library. “We just have a good, strong support system.”
The library, built in 2006, replaced the facility that was formerly located inside an 1868 Presbyterian Church located at Prairie and Ninth streets. That building, which had been added onto twice, is now a private business. The church served as the city’s library from 1924 to 2006. It was a quaint 4,000 square feet in size, much too small for adequate library space, James says.
The library “had just outgrown it,” she says of the church. “There was no place for programming, no place for public access computers.”
Consultant helps plan library needs; board considers locations
Library Board members hired a consultant in 1999 to conduct a space needs assessment to determine what a new library would look like as far as the size needed to meet the current and expected growth of the city, and the type of programming and services it would provide to the community.
“I remember when we first started, we met at the old library. There were 10 people showing interest, and it went from that to a hugely successful project for our community,” says Cheryl Semerad, who was president of the Adel Public Library Foundation at the time and still serves on the foundation. “The finishing of the library is particularly satisfying for me.”
A series of public meetings in 1999 gave consultants and board members more information about the details the community wanted in a new library.
“The one thing the public told us was that they wanted it near the bike trail and to keep it as close to downtown as possible,” James says. Residents also wanted a community room that could be used for meetings and small events.
Board members briefly considered the building where City Hall is now located but knew it would not be big enough. The other option was to ask city voters to approve a bond issue to borrow the money necessary for the project. A new library was expected to cost about $3 million, of which City Council members asked the Adel Public Library Foundation to raise $550,000.
“We had never done a bond issue before,” Semerad says. “We talked to individuals and civic groups and churches. There was a strong feeling that Adel not only needed a bigger facility for a library, but we needed a place for children. We didn’t have anything like that. We thought we could meet all of those needs.”
The library today has a large children’s area with a story nook, train table and Legos for children to play with, and a large wooden boat where children can play or sit and read.
Bev Courtney of Adel comes to the library once or twice a week with her grandson Sawyer Taylor, 2, for story hour, music time and other children’s programs.
“He loves it,” she says. “It’s the friendliest library. They do such neat things for the kids.”
Courtney says she regularly checks out books at the library and that the employees are very nice and helpful.
The work begins
Semerad says $550,000 was a lot of money to raise for a small community. The community and local businesses helped out in many ways including in-kind contributions. For example, United Brick and Tile Co. in Adel donated the brick for the building.
“It seemed like the community was really for it, and they were willing to give money,” Semerad says. “We had (donations) from a few dollars to a $100,000. Every gift was appreciated. It just took a while to get it done.”
Mayor Jim Peters says the City Council set the $550,000 fundraising requirement before the bond issue in order to prove the private sector was committed to the project before they asked voters to support it.
“For Cheryl to lead the group and the effort to raise half a million dollars in Adel was just monumental,” Peters says, adding that many communities have companies with big foundations that are able to give large financial contributions toward a project, but Adel didn’t have that.
It took about 15 – 18 months for the library foundation to raise the $550,000 it needed. The money came through a grant, private donations, garage sales, mini bake sales and a silent auction.
James says library board members took their case to the public with overwhelming success: 70 percent of Adel voters in 2003 approved the plan to borrow $2.4 million toward the new library building.
“That’s a ringing endorsement” of the community’s support for the project,” Peters says. “To be able to increase the square footage from the old library to about four times really is a quality of life enhancement for our community. It’s a library the whole community is proud of.”
The building officially opened just after the New Year in 2006. The library’s design is open, and the exterior was modeled to look similar to the former Adel Manufacturing Co., where gloves and bonnets where made that is now home to City Hall. It’s centrally located and near the bicycle path for easy access.
“The result is a beautiful library that is now finished,” Peters says.
The original plans called for only the first floor to be finished. The second floor would be finished in future years as more money was raised, James says. But the project came in under budget, and there was enough money to finish half of the second floor.
Library officials had crammed most of their books in the finished half of the second floor onto a hodgepodge of bookshelves that James says she picked up at various garage sales. It was crowded, and the shelving didn’t match, she says.
The unfinished half was separated from the library by a wall and was used for garage sales and book storage.
“We used it, but it wasn’t usable for collections,” James says. “It was a big room with unfinished walls and cement floor, knowing that someday we would finish it.”
Shortly after the library opened in 2006, the foundation received several private donations from the estates of former residents that were designated toward finishing the second floor.
James says it was decided this year to request bids for the project with the thought that maybe it would cost less in a weakened economy.
“We figured it was a good time to go ahead and finish the library,” she says.
It cost about $126,000 minus the shelving to finish the remaining second floor. The new space is now home to all of the library’s fiction books. They’re shelved by different genres and separated by hardback, paperback and large print.
Since the new library building opened, usage has increased. Five years ago, circulation was 79,599; it was 92,602 for the year that ended June 30. Patron visits went from 31,772 five years ago to 49,076 during the same time period.
The library’s collection is about 40,000 items, and there were 4,472 cardholders last year.
James says the next purchase will be seating on the east end of the room.
“It would be a nice relaxing place to read or do homework or get on your Wi-Fi,” she says.