City officials recently said the Sherman Public Library won’t return to its building on North Travis Street until renovations of the building are completed.
The library was moved to a temporary location at 1000 N. East Street, which is across from the Glennie O. Han Community Center, after a fire was intentionally set in the building scheduled for a nearly $2 million renovation on April 26.
“The determination was made that we could save approximately two months on the total time of the construction by remaining at the abridged location, as I like to call it,” Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said. “So the determination was made by city management that they would stay there for the remainder of the project.”
Two days after the fire, Sherman offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the fire. In May, the city released a grainy surveillance video with the outline of the suspect who gained entry into the library at about 1:30 a.m. and started the series of fires; Strauch said the search for the suspect is still going on.
Library Services Administrator MeLissa Eason said the library remaining in its temporary location during the renovations will probably be for the best as it will allow the construction crews to work without anyone being in the way.
“And it’s safer for employees, so we’re not breathing all that,” Eason said.
Strauch said the city is hoping to have the library renovations done in the spring of next year. During the city’s budget workshop last month, Assistant City Manager Steve Ayers said the renovation, which was approved by the City Council as part of the city’s current fiscal year budget, is set to begin soon with work to demolish the existing 3,364-square-foot addition on the building’s south side.
“We’re going to spend somewhere around $2 million for that renovation,” Ayers said. “And that renovation will actually touch every aspect of the library, so you’re talking about new floors, ceiling, HVAC, bathrooms, the exterior — they’ll acid wash and clean. It’ll be like a new building when they’re done.”
Eason said the library recently received a $500 donation from the United Way’s Leadership Class for the purchase of new books. Library staff worked last year to reduce the size of its book collection last year in anticipation of the remodel, but Eason said she has a couple of different projects she’d like to spend some money on for the library.
“One is a new microfilm reader and printer,” she said. “The ones we have are pretty old and the newer ones are more computer-based.”
The other project the library services manager has in mind is purchasing some Lego robot-building kits, as Sherman’s new children’s librarian Allie Barton has experience teaching robot building for children.
Barton isn’t the only help the library recently received; Eason said the community really stepped up to help after the fire.
“I was just surprised at the outpouring of support — we got emails and phone calls and just people who may not even physically be able to help with a lot of it wanting to help in any way they could,” Eason said. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out which projects we could have people do. So we had people dusting off books, cleaning out books and boxing them. Not just people that go to the library, there also city staff from other departments that came into the hot building and worked hard too when they didn’t have to.”
At the budget workshop, the assistant city manager said the volunteers made it so the library hardly missed a beat.
“With some help from the community and teamwork with everybody in the city, we were able to overcome that pretty quickly and get us a nice temporary building set up,” Ayers said.
Eason said things have been going well at the temporary location, but it does fill up quickly because of its smaller size.
“Probably our biggest thing is we don’t have every book that people want, we don’t have microfilm and we don’t have enough computers for everyone,” she said. “So sometimes you’ll go in and there’s people lurking at every desk. So our biggest issue right now probably is space and not having everything people are wanting.”
Eason said the library can order some of those missing materials from the libraries in Denison and at Grayson College, and people have been understanding about the temporary location’s limitations. Still, she’s already started making plans for the library’s official reopening next year.
“We’re going to do a carnival-type thing,” Eason said, noting she’s had interest from a local bank, among others, about helping out. “I’m already planning for that. We may do something big before then, but I’m really looking forward to that.”