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Library ready for grand opening

by Merrie Leininger, Record-Courier staff writer

For months, the patrons of the Douglas County Library lived with the inconvenience of construction, but the library staff has been happy with the noise and mess because soon, staff members will be able to stretch out a little.

A new wing will provide office space for people who nearly had to sit on top of each other for years.

Four full-time librarians, three part-time librarians and four part-time pages have been sharing desk space meant for eight.

“We’re walking on each other back there,” said librarian Luise Ruff.

Library Director Linda Deacy said the current library was built in 1980. The original Douglas County Public Library is now used as the county communications center.

The new room will add 3,800 square feet. The room also has storage, so the librarians don’t have to fear being buried in falling items when opening a closet. Some old chairs have been re-upholstered by the Friends of the Library and brand-new study carrels line the back wall.

Construction was estimated to cost $425,000, but Deacy said the project probably will come in under budget. She said she is happy the library continues to do the job of a big-city library with the staff, room and budget of a small-town library.

“Under national standards for what it takes to serve an individual patron in a community, we’d have to have 22,000 square feet. So, even with this addition, we are a third smaller than the optimum size,” Deacy said.

Ruff said she knows everyone has been impatient to see the new wing – she has had to herd folks out of there even though it is blocked off – but many small details have held up the grand opening.

Finishing touches will still need to be done, even after the opening. Landscaping and parking lot work bids have just gone out.

“We keep running into little things that need to get taken care of, then something else comes up and we have to drop back again,” she said. “The patrons are dying to get back here. I’ve had all kinds of people volunteering to help with the move. They all want to be a part of it.”

Once the hard work is completed, the grand opening ceremony will be held Thursday, Aug. 3. The county commissioners will be there, along with the first Douglas County librarian, Yvonne Saddler, who now lives in Seattle.

At the ceremony, the next construction project will be announced. With money donated to the library by the estate of Elizabeth Johnson, the meeting room will get a face-lift. New carpet, new tables and chairs and the doors and ceiling will be refinished, Deacy said. The room will then be renamed the Elizabeth Johnson Room, after the woman who organized the support to bring the first library to Douglas County in the mid-60s. Johnson died in June of lung cancer.