Expansion Plans Announced

At the annual Mercer Library October Celebration on October 3rd, librarian Teresa Schmidt announced the next big news at the Mercer Public Library: a planned expansion that will add a much-needed children’s room, quiet study area and meeting room, and increased shelving and seating space.

The Mercer Library Board contracted with architect Gary Sobek of Hazelhurst to develop initial plans for the expansion, paid for by a donation from the Friends of the Library. Now that the initial building plans have been drawn, the library board’s building committee has set to work developing a fundraising plan. It is estimated that the committee will need to raise about $350,000 to complete construction.

The town of Mercer has a long history of library service, beginning with the original Mercer Free Library that was opened in 1938 by the Mercer Women’s Civic Club. The original library was housed in a section of the Mercer Community Center that is now known as the Reading Room, and contained a collection of about 600 books. The library moved to the Haines Civic Building from 1980 until 1997, until the town of Mercer renovated the Community Center and added the new library.

“After 12 years in this building, we just don’t have enough room,” said library board president Marge Pemble. Pemble has been on the library board since 1989 and has seen the library grow dramatically. “Last year, we had over 15,700 visitors. Our shelves are full, and we are always in need of more seating for laptop users.”

Although the library has a large selection of books and materials for children, there is no space for kids to spread out and read comfortably. The proposed children’s room addition will allow the library to hold more activities and welcome more children to the library.

“The library is a really important resource for the children of any community,” said library director Teresa Schmidt. “Right now, our open space means that whenever there is noise and activity in the library, it becomes disruptive to other users. If we are able to add a children’s room, we can let the kids relax and be kids, enjoy the library, and not be disturbing anyone else.”

Since moving into the current facility, the library collection has more than doubled in size to over 19,000 items, and the library is in need of added shelving to house its growing collections of books, DVDs, magazines, books on CD, and music. The expansion will also include a meeting room to allow for small community group meetings and serve as quiet study space during library hours.

The Building Committee has set a goal of raising funds for the addition over the next 3 to 5 years. The committee will be raising funds through direct appeals, special events, raffles and other fundraisers, grant writing, and many other activities. The Friends of the Library and the Library Board have some funds set aside for future expansion projects, but it is estimated that an additional $350,000 will need to be raised to complete construction.

“We don’t intend to have the library expansion on the tax rolls,” said Pemble. “The Building Committee is working on ways to raise the money through grants and donations from library supporters.”