‘The upgrades we chose to address five years ago have moved us forward a good 20 years.’
As 2015 winds down, Peabody Township Library has announced that a light is visible at the end of a long tunnel known as upgrades to an aging structure.
A project that began five years ago has nearly reached fruition, bringing the 100-year old Carnegie Library into ADA compliance, replacing dangerous knob and tube electrical service, and upgrading the technology section.
“Really, the library trustees have done a terrific job implementing this plan,” library director Rodger Charles said. “We met with an architect in 2010 and created a list of things that needed to be changed in order to keep the building functioning as a library. Some of those things are completed.
“The most daunting part is the installation of a lift at the north door and remodeling restrooms in the basement to make them handicap accessible. We are getting ready to attack those issues,” he said.
Charles said Peabody Township Library is one of four Carnegie libraries in the state of Kansas still functioning as a library.
“I’m not sure Andrew Carnegie planned for them to last 100-plus years,” he said. “Most communities have saved their buildings, but they now are used as museums or community centers instead of libraries. Peabody Township Library is unique. The upgrades we chose to address five years ago have moved us forward a good 20 years.”
Replacing obsolete wiring was a large project, but library trustees felt it had to be one of the first projects to complete. A grant from Peabody Community Foundation took care of most of the cost. New electrical service for the lift and new restrooms is all that remains to complete the re-wiring.
Board of trustees president Norma Patton likened the overall scope of work on the library to interlocking pieces of a giant puzzle.
“As we near completion of one phase, sometimes it means putting final details on hold while a different project is begun because they must merge when both are completed,” she said.
Looming in the near future is the restoration and cleaning of the wall-sized World War I Honor Roll painting, which is positioned above a stairway that goes to the basement level. It will have to be removed to install the lift and change the stairway direction.
A preservationist in Wichita has been hired to restore and clean the 1921 painting, which is painted on a wood backing rather than on canvass. Moving it will be another large undertaking and restoration will take three to five months, but it cannot be re-installed until all the work on the lift is complete.
“These are the kind of overlapping situations we have run into,” Patton said. “Lift construction will begin in the fall because the library will need to be closed and we don’t want to close it until after school starts. We want to be open for summer because we serve quite a few children.”
Patton said the architect will begin the bid process — which is complicated and has many facets — early in 2016. It will likely take three to six months. When contractors are selected and a more detailed timeline is established, the painting will be removed and taken to Wichita.
“Hopefully, the painting will be completed at about the same time as the lift installation and restrooms,” she said. “We have some money left from the PCF grant, but until we know what the bids are, we won’t know for sure how far it will stretch.”
Charles and Patton both acknowledged generous memorial gifts and donations from patrons in the past few years.
“The board of trustees have done a great job for the community,” Charles said. “Peabody Township Library is a huge positive for Peabody in the midst of some negative issues. We have gotten positive feedback from North Central Kansas Libraries System and have earned several library grants. We are one of only a few libraries with our newspapers digitized and linked to our web site, thanks to the generosity of a Peabody High School alumnus.
“Patrons made significant donations several years ago when we first started talking about the WWI painting. About one half the restoration cost is covered,” he said. “We have had generous contributions from many people. We would like patrons to come in and see what is new at the library.”
Library hours are: Sunday and Monday, closed; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to noon and 3 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.