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Library grand opening attracts patrons, officials

by Merrie Leininger, Staff writer

Many people with connections to the Douglas County Public Library and community members who simply appreciate having the facility attended the grand opening of the new wing Thursday morning.

Before the green ribbon spanning the new entrance way was cut by County Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen and Library Board Vice Chairman Mike Riley, Library Director Linda Deacy thanked the many individuals that made the renovation and addition possible.

The director of the first county library, Yvonne Saddler, recalled the facility’s humble beginnings.

“We had no shelves when we started acquiring books. I think the county commission was giving us about $6,000 a year for books. Grace Whear was the part-time assistant, and we worked in an old jury room in what used to be the courthouse organizing the books. Then we put them on the floor in proper Dewey order and people would come by and pick the books up off the floor,” Saddler recalled.

The books were sorted in the courthouse but stored across the street, and when the library outgrew that building, which now houses the 911 center, Saddler wrote a Fleischmann Foundation grant for $1 million to construct the current building on Library Lane and make additions to the Lake branch at Zephyr Cove.

“I really, really like what’s been done here. It’s a working library,” Saddler said.

Etchegoyhen, who said he still has his original library card issued by Saddler, also praised the library.

“This is one of those attributes that makes Douglas County one of the classiest counties in the state. It’s things like this that make us unique,” he said.

Both Saddler and Deacy gave credit to Elizabeth Johnson, who spearheaded the movement to bring a library to Douglas County. Johnson died in June of lung cancer, and money was donated to the library in her memory. Deacy announced that the meeting room will be renovated using that money, along with donations from her husband Knox Johnson, and renamed the Elizabeth Johnson conference room in her honor.

Whear said she was impressed with the new wing, which houses computers, staff office space, storage space, the Nevada Collection and the reference section.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s just flabbergasting because when Yvonne and I opened the other library – well, this is such a far cry from what we had. This is just a dream, a dream come true,” she said.

Gardnerville resident Mary Ellen Schaffer said she was also surprised by the 3,800 square foot addition.

“I didn’t have any idea it was going to be this large. Our itty bitty town, and we’ve got this wonderful library,” Schaffer said. “It’s so airy and light. When I was a kid, libraries were so dark. I know why so many children like to come here, and this just makes it more so.”

Librarian Patty Timmens said the staff is certainly happy to see the $425,000 addition finally completed.

“I’m very happy about this. As I said to the county commissioners, since we’ve got so much more space, now we’ll need more books,” she said. “It was pretty tight back (in the librarians’ office). Now I have my own desk, so I’m excited. We can all breathe easier.”

Ron Baker, who installed the library’s computer network, was also there to celebrate the opening.

He said at least eight new computers, many with Internet access, were added.

“There is more access and there will definitely be more computers available to the public,” he said.

Judy Jacobs, who was on the library board for nine years, said the board started looking at ways to expand in 1989.

“This is just wonderful. Of course, the library could always use more space. This is a nice design. It’s nice to have windows that open and it’s quite nice to see this finished after so long,” Jacobs said.

Barbara Smallwood, who was on the county commission when the process to build the addition began, said she was glad to see the work completed.

“It couldn’t have been done without the support from the public and the originators of the public library. I just wish Liz (Johnson) could have been here. I hope the public continues to support the process of educating the public,” she said.

Library volunteer June O’Keefe said she knew the construction was going on while she was out-of-town, but didn’t expect what she found when she returned.

“I knew it was happening, but I didn’t expect it to be this elaborate. I should have known Linda (Deacy) would make it this nice,” O’Keefe said.