Elmore library a labor of love

ELMORE – “A generous one-car garage,” is how Dorothy Johnson describes Elmore’s former library. Now, she and the rest of the library board are proud to show off the big, clean, state-of-the-art facility they hope people will use for years to come.

The sunlit main room has a lounge with easy chairs for reading, a study area with wireless Internet and seven computers, a kids’ area with bean bag chairs, and a window seat. A community room in the back has enough space for groups to meet.

And of course there are books. The new library has quite a selection of titles and can order just about any book people could want because it is part of the Traverse des Sioux inter-library loan system. Patrons can also download any e-book available in the Traverse des Sioux digital library.

Library director Nancy Ziegler has hosted author signings and holiday events like Santa Claus Day and an Easter Egg Hunt, and she’s kicked off summer reading with rootbeer floats and hot dogs.

Formerly, the tiny library was housed in the same building as the water plant, but in 2008, the library board was advised to find a new home, according to board member Pat Coupanger. The city was constructing a new water plant, and the old building was scheduled to be torn down.

As it turned out, the old water plant didn’t fall under the wrecking ball, but the library board had already started to dream of bigger and better things, so they went looking for a place to take their vision.

Their search ended with a derelict building on Willis Street.

“The only thing good about it was the outside walls were fairly straight,” Johnson said. “The roof was non-existent.”

Despite its condition, it was “the only building that was halfway suitable,” said Coupanger.

The first order of business was raising the funds with soup suppers and other events. The board also sent out letters to Elmore alumni for donations.

Serendipity intervened: Jennifer Sasse was in town with USDA Rural Development Agency to help with the new water plant. She heard about the efforts to build a new library and suggested the board apply to the USDA for a grant available at that time for rural libraries.

“Had it not been for her, we’d probably still be struggling,” Coupanger admitted.

The library board got the $150,000 grant and secured a $100,000 loan.

Mayor Bill Hurd donated around $90,000.

“His (late) wife, Nancy, had designated that some of her money be given to the library, and he did it. He was very generous,” Coupanger said. “This library is paid for.”

Construction started in July 2011 and was finished in a little over 90 days.

Although construction was done, the new furniture still had to be moved in. About 17 people worked for a week to make it happen.

Every library needs book shelves. Barnes & Noble book stores had donated some book shelves to the city of Gaylord, but they weren’t using all of them.

“Gaylord said we could have the rest,” Coupanger said.

A group went to Gaylord with a horse trailer and loaded up. When they got back, some boys from Elmore Academy helped unload the shelves, “which was a blessing,” Coupanger said.

Volunteers gave the shelves a good cleaning and assembled them.

The board is very pleased with the overall result.

“When people come in, we feel the whole thing is a ‘wow,'” Coupanger said.

To honor all those who made the library possible, a donation tree hangs on one wall.

“I designed the tree and (son-in-law) David Schiltz put it together,” Johnson said.

“It’s quite remarkable what can come about when people work together,” Johnson said.