MERCER, Wis. – The Mercer Public Library celebrated the completion of its building project Saturday afternoon during a bustling open house, citing extensive community support as a key part of its success.
The project doubled the library’s space, adding a large room for books, a colorful children’s room, a multipurpose meeting room and a new entrance to the original library room just off the Mercer Community Center building. The project, originally expected to take five years, was completed in only three years due to “fantastic” support from the entire community, according to Marge Pemble, president of the library’s board of directors.
More than 400 businesses, organizations and individuals donated to the project. Pemble said it feels “wonderful” to have the support. “With the economy being the way it is, it was just amazing that we raised that much money that quickly,” she said. The donations covered about two-thirds of the total cost, with the rest funded by a $141,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
More than $50,000 was donated by the Friends of the Mercer Library, a group Pemble and Library Director Teresa Schmidt thanked many times during a dedication of the multipurpose meeting room. The room was dedicated as the Friends of the Library Room to recognize the group for going “above and beyond the call of duty,” Schmidt said. Friends members held many fundraisers and “basically worked harder than I’ve ever seen a group of people work to make this all happen,” Schmidt said.
“We can never express our thanks to them,” Pemble said. “They just help our library go right over the top. If it weren’t for the Friends, we wouldn’t be what we are.”
Pemble said construction began in the fall last year and was completed early this year. After moving the collections into the new spaces, the library re-opened to the public at the end of February.
The bright, crisp new spaces seem to be a hit with everyone. “We’re so happy with it,” Pemble said. “The company that did it (National Construction) did a fantastic job.”
Schmidt is also happy with the results. “I am really pleased with the way it turned out,” she said. “It’s everything I expected and then some.”
A big plus is the new children’s room, something the library didn’t have before. “We’ve always had kids’ books of course, but we didn’t really have any place comfortable for children to sit and relax and enjoy the books,” Schmidt said. “It’s really nice to have a space for them that they can call their own.”
Another benefit of the expansion is having more room for activities. “I think it’s going to allow us to do so much more programming than we used to,” Schmidt said. “I see the library as more about the place as the service – people coming here and being able to sit and relax and gather here – and I think our new space will let us do that.”
The library offers a variety of children’s and adult programming, with story times and arts and crafts for kids and a monthly book club for adults. Staff from Iron County University of Wisconsin-Extension are currently holding robotics programs for kids at the library, and a children’s summer reading program is also planned.
More programming is coming up for adults, too. “This spring, we’re doing a lot of programs for people who want to learn more about homesteading topics like gardening and raising chickens,” Schmidt said. “The Extension office is helping us with that, and some local residents, too.”
Pemble noted that all are welcome to take advantage of the programs. “They’re open to anyone inside or outside the community.” The same goes for the building and its services also. “The library is free to everybody,” Pemble said.
Though construction is complete, there’s still more work ahead. New furniture and shelves are coming and more materials are needed to fill the new space. Donations of books and other media are accepted as long as the items are in good condition. If a donation is unusable, it is given to the Friends for their used book sales. Proceeds from the sales are then returned to further benefit the library.
Library officials repeatedly thanked the community for its support. “Mercer is a really supportive community,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been in other towns that really love their libraries, but I’ve never seen the kind of support I’ve seen in Mercer. To have so many people contribute to this project, it’s been wonderful.”