City officials and community members gathered at the Sherman Public Library Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the completion of nearly $2 million in renovations and the institution’s Aug. 13th reopening, which comes more than a year after the building was damaged by a series of intentional fires

The event featured remarks from Sherman Mayor David Plyler, Library Services Administrator Melissa Eason and City Manager Robbie Hefton and Assitant City Mangaer Steve Ayers. Attendees toured the facility and watched as officials unveiled an outdoor stone monument meant to welcome visitors and passing motorists along North Travis Street. Renovations included the demolition of a 3,300-square-foot addition on the building’s south side, expanded parking, new roofing, heating, cooling and electrical systems systems, as well as a new fire alarms, restroom layouts, furniture and shelving.

“We all love our library,” Sherman Mayor David Plyler said. “It’s just an incredible facility. It’s light, it’s open, it’s inviting, it’s everything we envisioned our library to be.”

The $1.8 million renovation project was given the green light by the Sherman City Council two years ago, but the need for renovations was accelerated in April 2017 after four fires were intentionally set inside the library, causing considerable damage. Officials posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the incident, but no arrests have been made.

“This time last year, it was probably all charcoal in here, but now you can see how beautiful it is,” Ayers said. “We turned something negative into something really positive.”

The library was originally set to stay open during the planned renovations, but fire damage forced staff to operate out of a temporary location at 1000 N. East Street, just across from the Glennie O. Han Community Center. Despite the added work in relocating and shuffling books, Eason said she was thrilled to return the library to it’s rightful home.

“It’s been a long process, because there are many pieces that come into this, of course — shelving, furniture, the books come in from a different location, lots of orders that have to come in from different places and all have to come together and be timed just right,” Eason said.

The library administrator said staff and other project planners made it a point to tailor renovations and features for the benefit of library goers and to simplify their experience. Eason cited a self-service computer system which will allow users to print and work without the assistance of library staff and the decision to eliminate numerous help stations in favor a single, central information desk.

“In the past we had a desk for everything,” Eason said. “A person coming in wouldn’t necessarily know, ‘I need to go the reference desk for this particular item,’ or ‘I need to go to the children’s desk for this item.’ They want to be able to go to one central desk to ask instead of being pointed to this place and that place.”

Plyler said he is glad to see the library fully restored and felt that it would welcome and benefit everyone.

“It’s here that a child with no books at home can come to read,” Plyler said. “It’s here that someone who can’t afford access to the life-changing power of the internet to come and search for jobs and connect with relatives. And it’s here that someone with disabilities can come to access the same information that we all take for granted. That’s why this project was such a vital one to the city council and why we wanted to invest the money to bring the library into the 21st century.”

Following its official opening next week, the Sherman Public Library will welcome patrons back with an on-site carnival and celebration on Aug. 18. For additional information, call the Sherman Public Library at 903-892-7240.