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Superior library turns the page

A man walks past empty book shelves in the Superior Public Library recently. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Superior Public Library is opening a new chapter: "Upgrade."

Construction is set to begin Monday on a six-month renovation project. When it's complete, the library will have a changed atmosphere — lower shelves, better lighting, an open floor plan, additional meeting rooms, new carpeting, furniture, paint and a new airlock entrance. Visitors will find a new local history research area, new computer lab and nearly double the amount of space dedicated to children and youth.

"It's all about reorganizing space," Library Director Sue Heskin said. "We are not adding any square footage to the building."

It won't be as quiet as usual at the library, and there will be a few temporary closures to install carpeting and for asbestos abatement. But Library Board members strongly believed the library should stay open as much as possible during the work.

"We're just hoping people will be really patient and bear with us as we make improvements," Heskin said.

Friends of the Library member Maggie Bare likened it to working on your house while living in it.

"It's not always the easiest thing, but it will be worth it when it's done," she said.

Adult hardcover fiction books will be permanently shelved during the renovation, although children's materials and new fiction, large-print and paperback books will be available. Branch libraries in Lake Nebagamon and Solon Springs will not be affected.

Books can be ordered from other libraries, and Heskin encouraged patrons to experiment with the library's online collection with the Overdrive app.

"We can help them set it up on their iPad, Kindle, phone," Heskin said.

Work updates and coming closures will be posted on the Superior Public Library Facebook page and at superiorlibrary.org.

"People will notice right away work is being done," Heskin said. "It should be interesting."

The library moved into its current location, a former grocery store at 1530 Tower Ave., 25 years ago. There have been no major upgrades to the 1968 building since then.

"The library has something for everyone, and now needs will be better met with this renovation," said Bare, who also serves on the Library Board.

The $2.1 million upgrade is funded by a $1.9 million loan through the city and by about $200,000 in capital campaign donations from the Superior Library Foundation's fundraising effort.

Although the Foundation is an independent nonprofit, its mission is to raise and manage funds to ensure the ongoing services and relevance of the Superior Public Library.

"The library is restricted from investing money that is donated," Foundation Secretary Jim Purvis of Maple said.

They can put it in the bank and use it, but not grow it over time — however, the Foundation, which formed four years ago, can. Its aim is to build up a $400,000 endowment fund over the next two years that can provide dollars for future library services and improvements.

Purvis said the money can be requested for any need, from a new furnace, to 10 iPads for children's activities.

Activity surrounding the remodel will serve as a springboard to the Foundation's capital campaign.

"People are motivated to give when they see something going on," Purvis said.

The group is offering naming rights for some of the areas being renovated, as well as a history-based 1888 Founders donation option that hearkens back to the year Superior founded its library. An artistic wall is being planned that will recognize donors of different levels for their commitments over time.

The Friends of the Library handed the Foundation its first $10,000 check for naming rights to the Friends Corner.

"We are already on our way," Purvis said.

The library has evolved from just a place to check out books, Bare said. The building hosts evenings of music, movies, a children's Halloween trick-or-treat, the annual Love Your Local Artist event, a book club, community meetings and children's programs. The computers it provides help people find jobs and create resumes, Purvis said.

They encouraged patrons to stop in and see the pages turn over the next six months, instead of using the drop box outside.

When the work is done, Bare said, "It will be the crown jewel of the city."

To learn more about donation options, email foundation@superiorlibrary.org or visit superiorlibrary.org and click on the Foundation tab.

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