FULTON — Light is perhaps the most striking change at the renovated Callaway County Public Library.
Before the renovation, dark blinds and blackened windows blocked any attempt by natural light to enter the building. Now, however, larger windows, lighter blinds and ceilings two feet higher have illuminated the building.
After nine months in a temporary location, the Callaway library officially reopened its doors to the public Wednesday after a ribbon-cutting and dedication Tuesday evening. A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday.
Eldon-based contractor Curtiss-Manes-Schulte, the same firm that built Columbia’s Arts and Recreation Center in 2001, completed the renovation, which began in February and cost about $800,000. The renovation was financed by the library’s operating budget.
The building, a Carnegie library erected in 1912, was sorely in need of repair. The last major work done to the structure was the addition of a wing in the 1980s.
Daniel Boone Regional Library Director Melissa Carr said improvements to the building’s lighting, its use of space and its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems were priorities.
“There was sometimes a 10-degree temperature difference from the upstairs and downstairs,” Carr said.
Other renovations included replacing the stairs and updating the restrooms. In the Friends Room, the stage was removed, storage cabinets were installed and an accordion wall was added so the room could be divided in two when necessary.
“We knew all these things needed to be done,” said Elinor Barrett, associate director of the regional library. “We just waited to complete them all at once.”
Before renovation, the building had five entrances from various renovation projects.
“This was a security issue,” Carr said. “We also wanted people to enter the building in one location and be greeted by an employee.”
After entering the building through double sliding doors at the main entrance on the lower level, patrons will be greeted by an employee at the circulation desk. The area behind the circulation desk will house the children’s section.
Jerilyn Hahn, children’s librarian, said that area will be used as a place for children to have stories read to them.
“Even when children know how to read for themselves, it’s important for them to hear books read out loud,” Hahn said. “Children comprehend a whole lot more of what they hear than what they read.”
The project also included new furniture and shelves for the media center and replacement of the building’s original stairs, which were not up to code.
“People tell us they will miss the squeaking stairs,” Barrett said.
To keep a piece of the history, contractors used beveled glass from the original doors in the windows of the computer lab and a staff work area.
The expanded computer lab, which once had space for only five computers, now can accommodate 12. Barrett said she would like to have nine to begin with.
The overall goal of the renovation was to make the library more user-friendly.
“Everyone is welcome here regardless of age,” Carr said. “We want the building to reflect that.”
“We want people to come in and be proud to use it. It’s their money,” Barrett added.
Members of the Callaway County Library District Board of Directors were equally pleased with the renovation.
“It will be so much handier and a lot more accessible for the public,” board President Larry Nolte said.
Carr said use of the library dropped off a bit at the temporary location, but she’s confident the number of patrons will eventually become larger than it was before the renovation.
That expectation seems on target. Administrative librarian Linda Hodgkins said the library was “swamped” on opening day.
“The public is very impressed with the bright colors and new lighting,” she said. “We have been very busy, but we’re loving it. We just hope that more people continue to come and use the library.”
The library’s staff hopes to give its programming a boost as well. Reference librarian Cathy Mudd said plans include a monthly book discussion group, genealogy services and adult computer classes.
Hahn said that in December, library staff will teach children how to make paper airplanes to celebrate Wright Brothers Day. And in February, they plan to celebrate the birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” series.