Area residents will soon get the chance to view the completely remodeled Sherman Public Library, as staff plan to be open to the public on Aug. 13. Library Services Administrator MeLissa Eason said city staff will likely hold a ribbon cutting event with the Sherman City Council in attendance the week before the official reopening, but the celebration of the redesign will continue to Aug. 18 with a planned carnival-style party outside the library.

In addition to a bounce house for children and free hot dogs for everyone, the planned celebration will include a performance from Theatricks, as well as the Children’s Chorus of Greater North Texas, a magician and tours of the redesigned library.

The council approved the nearly $2 million renovation to the library two years ago, and renovations include the demolition of a 3,364-square-foot addition on the building’s south side, a new roof and mechanical system for the entire building, as well as a new fire alarm system, restroom layout and shelving. Work got underway last year but quickly ran into an issue in April 2017 after four fires were intentionally set in the library. Sherman offered a $5,000 reward then for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the fires, but no arrests were ever made.

Sherman originally planned to keep the library open during the renovations but instead moved to its temporary location at 1000 N. East Street, which is across from the Glennie O. Han Community Center, after that fire. In June, Assistant City Manager Steve Ayers said all the interior construction had been completed and city staff were working on the parking lot, landscaping and small punch list items on the interior.

New features

The Herald Democrat got an early look at the renovations at the library, when about a third of the library’s books were up on the new shelves. Eason said a lot of that was due to the assistance of volunteers from the Sherman Service League, Friends of the Sherman Public Library, library board members and regular patrons.

“We’ve had a few people that have been here almost every day,” Eason said. “If it wasn’t for the volunteers, these books would not have gotten put on the shelves as quickly. This is almost completely volunteer work because we (library staff) are all working at the other library while they’re doing this.”

The remodeled library also features a dedicated children’s area, new drive-thru book return, a public meeting room — with kitchen space that can be split into two smaller rooms — and new computers.

“I think they’ll be happy about the way they can print now because that has been an issue with us,” Eason said of computer users. “I think that they’ll be happy with the self serve print feature and the signing into the computers without coming to an employee to sign them into the computer.”

The library services administrator said the new Envisionware software offers several benefits for those there to use the computers, including expanded printing options and the ability for patrons to pay for printouts using credit card, cash or coins.

“It works with the software that we already have, and people can print something and they don’t have to come ask us for it,” Eason said. “They used to have to stand in line, and it might be something personal. The thing I’m most excited about is you could, in theory, be somewhere else downtown, email it to our printer and come print it out here.”

Eason said she expects the redesigned children’s area, which includes a built-in puppet theater, to also be popular with patrons.

“It’s probably about the same size, but now we’ve spread a toddler area into the hallway,” she said. “It kind of gives you a little more space from the main part of the library. One of the problems we always had was when we tried to schedule adult programming, we always had to work around children. Having that (area) reserved for only our programming gives us a lot more flexibility to know that if we want to set up for a program ahead of time, it doesn’t take away from other programming for other age groups.”

City crews are still working on the redesigned parking lot and landscaping for the library, which will include a drive thru lane to allow patrons to return books and other media directly into the building.

“They’re having to change the format of the parking lot, so that has been kind of a struggle making sure it can accommodate emergency vehicles but also get as many parking spaces as we can,” Eason said. “We had to have light poles out there, and we’re also going to do a big electronic sign that’s going to be coming in the future as well.”

Eason said when the main library reopens, the majority of the books that had previously been at the library should be available again, including ones that weren’t available at the temporary location.

“There was a limited collection available,” Eason said of what library staff have been working with for the past 16 months. “They had been in storage.”

Something that won’t be available in the Sherman library anymore is its genealogy collection, which is being transferred to the Grayson County Frontier Village & Museum along with records from Denison and Pottsboro. However, Eason said Sherman city directories, as well as past issues and microfilm of the Herald Democrat, will remain at the Sherman library.

Close to budget

Ayers said he was happy with how the project turned out from a financial standpoint.

“Considering when we came into the project, we went into a 43-year-old building with a construction budget of about $1.8 million,” Ayers said in June. “When it’s all said and done, we anticipate it’s going to be within 3 percent of our estimated budget from the beginning, which on a project like that is really good. Usually if you can keep it 5 (percent) or less, it’s pretty good. So I think we feel really good that a 43- to 44-year-old building like that, that was a burnout, that we stayed right at the budget.”

Ayers explained some of the things that brought the project past the original budget were discovering some asbestos that had to be dealt with, as well as water and sewer lines that needed to be replaced.

“We had some items like that, where we were ‘OK, we’re going to have to go ahead and take care of that now,’” Ayers said. “That put us a little outside the budget.”

Library park

City staff proposed the addition of a small park and gazebo to the library’s grounds as part of the upcoming fiscal year 2018-2019 budget. During the council’s budget workshop in June, Parks and Recreation Manager Theresa Hutchinson showed a picture of a pavilion that would provide seating and shade, as well as an area with outdoor musical instruments on small stands for children.

Eason said the outdoor area has been a longtime wish of library staff and patrons.

“We thought it would be nice to have a gazebo,” Eason said in June. “I had seen the musical instruments at other libraries other places, so I wanted to take those two elements and make a good outdoor space that we could do programming and that kids could just come out and play.”

She said the plan is to also have plants around the gazebo that will attract butterflies, similar to what the Dallas Public Library does.