Big changes in store for the Collins Public Library

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The Collins Public Library, left, purchased the vacant building next door in May. Work will soon begin on the newly acquired building so the library can expand into the new area, using both buildings to serve library patrons. Photo by Whitney Sager
The children’s area is currently located toward the back of the existing library building. The area will be moved to the building to the south once renovations are complete. Photo by Whitney Sager
The area outlined in blue represents the existing library, while the yellow outlined area on the right represents the building next door the library recently purchased. The teen and children’s areas will be moved to the new building, while part of the existing building will be transformed into a program/meeting room. Photo by Whitney Sager
The building the library purchased last May has been gutted and is now waiting on further work to be completed by a contractor. Library Director Kesha Christie expects work to begin sometime in November and the new building will be ready for library patrons to use by next spring. Photo by Whitney Sager
Friends of the Collins Public Library purchased bookshelves from Borders after the business closed in Des Moines. The shelves were placed in the library during renovations that took place approximately two years ago. Photo by Whitney Sager

It is a small-town library with big plans.

The Collins Public Library is about to expand in size, a growth made possible after the purchase of the building next door. What was once a doctor’s office, among other things, the building south of the library has sat empty for several years. The generosity of two former long-time residents enabled the library to purchase the building in May, and members of the Friends of the Library group spent the summer gutting the building. Now the library is in the process of finding a contractor to finish the interior work, which will include cutting a doorway into the adjoining wall of the two buildings.

“It’s exciting for our community,” library director Kesha Christie said of the renovation plans.

She said Collins does not really have a place where people can gather or students can come after school. As a result, the library has become the “hub” of the community, attracting patrons of all ages. The addition of the next door building will provide more room for people to spread out. It will also allow more programs for all ages to be held at the library, including bringing back the preschool-aged reading program. Christie also wants to offer programs for teenagers and start a book club.

“Programming is our number one focus,” Christie said. “We want to provide more programs than we used to.”

Once a contractor is found, work is expected to begin sometime in November and be completed by the spring of next year. The new addition will be called the Wright Learning Center, after the donors who provided the funds to purchase the building.

Prior to the purchase of the former doctor’s office, the existing library space was renovated approximately two years ago. A doorway was cut out of a wall to connect what was once two separate rooms, making it easier for patrons to move from one room to another. Christie said the Friends also played a key role in the existing library’s renovation. The shelves in the library were purchased by the Friends from Borders when the Des Moines business closed. The group also painted the interior of the building, moving all the books and furniture themselves. Laying new carpet was another aspect of the renovations, but the library hired an outside source to handle that job.

Christie said she appreciates all the time and effort the Friends have put into the renovations.

“The Friends of the Library have been so good to us. They’re the go-getters who have been making this happen,” Christie said.

The renovations have been a long-time coming. Heather Hall, Friends of the Library member, estimates they started fundraising for the renovations 10 years ago. A number of fundraisers have been held, including Trivia Nights, community breakfasts and vendor shows, to raise money to make the renovations possible. Local organizations have also donated funds toward the library’s projects.

“It’s really been a grassroots effort,” Hall said. “It takes a lot of people to get things going.”

Hall has also been filling out grants to bring in additional funds for the projects. So far, the library has been awarded a $10,092 Roy Carver grant and received $6,000 from the Kinney-Lindstrom Foundation. Between the fundraiser money and the grants, approximately three-fourths of the project is paid for so far. Hall said they are waiting to hear back about a few other grant applications that have been submitted.

“We’re excited to get it finished,” Christie said. “We’ve been raising money for so long.”

Aside from the city government, the library is the longest-running entity that has been around in Collins, Hall said. A group of three women from the ladies’ auxiliary pooled their money together 77 years ago to purchase books and begin the library. Completing the renovations on the library will help the facility remain an essential service in the community.

“It has been such a dream. It’s hard to believe it’s going to happen,” Hall said.

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