The $2.1 million renovation of Superior Public Library is complete, and it's time to celebrate. A grand reopening takes place Friday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can explore the fresh, clean space and find uncovered treasures.
There's new furniture, new service desks, new carpet and new shelving, but the biggest attention-grabber in the redesigned space has been there all along.
"People are saying, 'Where did you get the new murals?" Heskin said. "We've had them, of course, since the '90s, and now you can see them."
Artist Carl Gawboy's pictorial timeline of Superior wraps around the space. The shorter 66-inch shelving, which replaced 7-foot shelves, gives patrons a view of Superior's colorful history from just about anywhere in the main body of the library.
Another secret that's been revealed has its own lounge area.
"We've had a skylight forever, nobody could find it," Heskin said.
Now, visitors can pull up a soft stool or sit in a couch underneath the skylight. The area has become popular for gatherings and studying, Heskin said.
Approximately 22,000-square-feet of library space was remodeled. The work began in January and was completed in late July, although small touches are still underway.
"They've been adding things daily," Heskin said.
The library made a commitment to stay open as much as possible during the work, closing only for May.
"I'm surprised at how adaptable our customers were during that time," Heskin said. "We had things moved, sometimes on a daily basis, and the noise and the dirt and the dust. Patrons were still really accommodating. We were expecting many more complaints, but they didn't come."
Visitors have been surprisingly positive, librarian Kathy McDonald said.
"I have only heard one negative comment," she said. "I could not believe how many positive things I heard. I could not believe it."
Library staff weeded out books and materials in the months leading up to the renovation, knowing there would be less space on the shorter stacks.
"I can't tell you how satisfying it was the day that the shelves went up and we put everything back on the shelves. Everything fit," Heskin said. "It was beautiful."
The library cut back the number of books by about 20 percent, which opened space for other needs.
"We have shelving for CDs now, more movies, and areas for services,"Heskin said. "We just didn't have areas for helping people. Now a lot of staff work is actually done here at the service desks."
The completed space has been getting rave reviews.
Patrons have commented that the books and materials are easier to find, and easier to reach. There are new spaces to meet in, as well.
Parents said they appreciated the expanded children's area, which includes a series of nooks to read or play in as well as double the storytime space. Joanna McCotter tackled puzzles with her preschoolers Tuesday, Sept. 4, while a grandfather listened to his grandson read in the area.
"The children's room is crazy," McDonald said. "There's been a lot of activity."
For the library's 24 employees, it's been a challenging year. But they've all come through.
"The staff was so amazing during the whole thing," Heskin said. "We had to move every item in this place, sometimes a couple times."
Staff members also offered key insight into planning the new layout, she said.
This project is over, but Heskin said there are plans to refresh the meeting rooms later this year or in early 2019 with new carpeting, paint and unique murals by Tony Yaworski.
The city provided $1.9 million in Capital Improvement Program dollars for the renovation, with the rest coming from capital campaign donations from the Superior Library Foundation's fundraising efforts. That money will be paid back to the city over the next 12 years.
"We are still taking donations for enhancements, Heskin said. "Our foundation is still fundraising."
But Friday, they'll celebrate.
The open house includes storytimes at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the children's area, the chance to read to a dog in the children's area at 2 p.m. and a ribbon-cutting program in the atrium at 4 p.m. Heskin will be available offer informal tours and Teddie Meronek will lead a Gawboy mural Superior history tour at 2 p.m.
Friends of the Library will be on hand all day in the Friends Corner with refreshments, book sale and other sale items.