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New look for oldest library

Staff writer

After being essentially closed since late September for major renovation and structural repair, Peabody Township Library will reopen Tuesday with a fresh, clean look and set up for the future.

Librarian Rodger Charles said the $150,000 renovation was financed in part with $61,500 in grant money. The library also hopes to get a tax credit grant that will allow it to sell tax credits to recoup most or remaining expenses.

Changes greet patrons before even entering the library. A new set of front steps on the west side leads to a porch with a mosaic open book at the entry and benches on either side.

Lighting is recessed into the steps

The original steps were pressing against the building and caused damage to the basement.

Inside the door, library patrons are greeted with new carpet; freshly restored and painted walls; clean, shiny light fixtures that no longer spark when bulbs are replaced; and shelves no longer jammed from one side to the other with books.

The most remarkable changes are to the library’s Ann Potter Room in the basement.

Old suspended ceiling panels have been removed, allowing the tops of wooden window frames to be seen. A clean, fresh drywall ceiling now graces the room instead of a cracked plaster ceiling hidden by the suspended ceiling. New wiring and light fixtures replaced the old.

Light fixtures in the room are reminiscent of the 1920s but controlled by a dimmer.

“While we had the ceiling down, I had them put in data cabling,” Charles said.

The data cabling serves not only computers but also will serve holographic projectors when they are ready for common use.

A door that led to a storage area was enlarged and moved to the west, and a smart panel that was on the north side of the room now hangs on the right.

A stairway leading from the main floor to the basement turned out to have beautiful wood under old carpet. All traces of the carpet were removed and the wood refinished to expose the warmth of the wood.

Other than on stairs to the basement, new carpet was laid throughout the library.

Walls throughout the library have been patched and freshly painted.

Swinging entrance doors were re-hung so the doors no longer sticks when halfway open.

Floors were redone to remove uneven surfaces.

Although the project began in September and the front doors and basement were closed, patrons still could enter by the building’s north door.

Charles said the work hit a fever pitch in November when contractors moved upstairs to the main floor.

“We’ve limped through this process,” Charles said.

People wanting specific books and materials “haven’t been told no, but sometimes we’ve said, ‘It might take a while. Let me get your number,’ ” Charles said.

Although Charles credits his library board and community volunteers with the progress of the work, he admits he’s tired.

He’s glad for the help and people working to make the library and community better.

The library is technologically ahead of other libraries of its size.

The original library was donated by in 1874, he said. The original building still stands as a museum east of the Carnegie library built in 1914.

Peabody Township Library was the first free library in the state.

“Not the first library, but the first free library,” Charles said.

After all the exhausting work, after reopening the doors Tuesday, after having the library inspected by the State Historical Society, Charles has plans for the next new thing at the library.

In 2024, the library will begin having story times for children.

Last modified Dec. 28, 2023

 

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