SHERRARD -- The third time’s a charm for Sherrard Library District residents as ground was broken last week for a new library building. The new location is on land owned by the library on the corner of 3rd Street and 5th Avenue.

The first attempt was in 2007 when taxpayers voted down a referendum. The old high school gym that sat on the adjoined property was torn down in preparation. According to Library Director Bobbi Jackson, the board then proposed a less expensive building, but that plan never saw the ballot as taxpayers said they would not support raising taxes.

The idea was revisited last summer when the board again looked into the cost of a new building.

“In November, it went out to bid and came back that it was something we could actually afford. … Now it’s actually happening and it’s really awesome,” said Ms. Jackson. “We hope with the new library that we’ll be able to give our patrons a library that will fit the needs of our community.”

Laverdiere Construction of Macomb had the low bid of $514,000. Total cost of the project is $530,000, including sidewalk and gravel to address future drainage issues. Ms. Jackson said they hope to raise another $70,000 for proper shelving and furniture. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of June with a grand opening in August.

The building that has housed the library’s collection for over 20 years was previously Sherrard’s high school, originally built in the 1920s and added on to in 1964. No decision has been made on the future of that building.

Board president Allen Holdsworth said the library is mostly in the later edition to the former school. “We also have two rooms that are used a lot in the old part of the school. ... There are constantly repairs and leaks that need to be taken care of.  It is kind of a money pit.”

Ms. Jackson said a few years back they spent around $20,000 on renovating the upstairs program room. “We don’t want to continue to throw good money after bad,” she said. “There’s absolutely no point in putting money into a building that’s falling apart.”

Last year $1,500 was spent on replacing bulbs in the community room alone. After an energy audit was done on the building, Ms. Jackson said they were told there’s nothing efficient about it and they just need to build a new building.

She said the building’s issues include roof leaks, window gaps, doors that no longer fit because of leaks and weather causing expansion and contraction. The program room is not handicapped accessible, and the cost to put in an elevator would be more than $80,000. Older areas of the building are uninhabitable.

The new location will add another 1,800 square feet. It will have a larger programming room, study and meeting room, improved layout, public restrooms and drinking fountain, among other things. They hope to raise the funds to build new library shelving. They’re currently using storage shelves.

The current location has 4,300 square foot of usage space in a 16,000 square foot building which causes a money suck in utilities. 

Paula Graff, assistant director, said they’ve outgrown the current location, “If you look around our shelves, a lot of them are full, and we really don’t have anywhere else to go in this building to expand.”

A significant portion of the cost is self-funded thanks to a savings fund established in 2007 by the library board solely for the construction of a new building. That foresight, along with fiscal responsibility and generous donations, equates to more than $400,000 toward the project. The remainder will come via a sustainable loan through Blackhawk State Bank. “We’re really making sure we’re spending our money wisely,” Ms. Jackson said.

“We’re doing it through savings and grants, memorials and donations. So property taxes will not go up because we’re putting in a new building,” Ms. Jackson said. “We don’t want people to pay any more money to use the library.”

“We were surprised that the bids came in where they did and that we would be able to build a new library without increasing anyone’s taxes.” Mr. Holdsworth said. They will seek out grants and collect donations to keep the amount needed for a loan as minimal as possible.

“We really hope this library becomes a destination for people to come to Sherrard,” Ms. Jackson said. Her vision for the library is one of economic stimulation, “We would like to see Sherrard have more people here -- more businesses, more families, more interaction within the village. ... We’re really excited about what we think this library can do for the village.”

The board is looking into the cost to tear down the old building, Mr. Holdsworth said. “We are in no hurry to do anything right now as we are concentrating on getting the new library built. So we have three options now on the old building, in no special order: tear down; do nothing for a while; consider selling it. A lot will depend on the bids we get for tearing it down.”

The library hosts several well-attended programs including a coffee group that meets Mondays at 9:30 a.m.; Children’s Story Time Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.; a book club; Little Picassos Painting Nights for kids; adult painting and craft nights; family movie nights; Lego Club and a cross-stitch group.

Programs are free to patrons in the district, and a minimal cost to cover supplies for those outside of the district. The Sherrard Library District covers Sherrard, Coyne Center, Cable, Fyre Lake, Boden, Matherville, Preemption and parts of Lynn Center and Reynolds.

For details about programming and how to donate contact the library at  309-593-2178.

Daily picture updates showing the construction process can be found on the library's Facebook page, facebook.com/SherrardLibrary. Their website is sherrardlibrary.org.


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