Mitchell library to expand and modernize

Mitchell's $13.9 million makeover: Part 3 of a series examining four bond-funded public building projects The Mitchell Public Library has served the community for more than 40 years. It will continue to do so for many more years after a remodel a...

Mitchell Public Library
The city of Mitchell has budgeted $2.3 million for an expansion of the Mitchell Public Library to be completed in 2014. The expansion of the main library space would take place on the east side of the building, pictured here. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Mitchell's $13.9 million makeover: Part 3 of a series examining four bond-funded public building projects

The Mitchell Public Library has served the community for more than 40 years.

It will continue to do so for many more years after a remodel and expansion are completed in 2014, according to the Mitchell architect who is designing the new-look library.

Larry Jirsa said the project, budgeted at $2.3 million, will expand the community room, doubling it in size, add space to the main part of the library on the east side of the building, and expand the work room on the west side of the library, with a 38-foot by 45-foot addition. That will have a full basement beneath it, unlike the 16-foot east side expansion.

The $2.3 million comes from $13.9 million in bonds recently issued by the Mitchell City Council, for the library project and three other projects -- a renovation of the Corn Palace and expansion of Corn Palace exhibits into the existing City Hall; the construction of a new city hall in southern downtown; and the addition of a second indoor rink to the ice arena, known as the Mitchell Activities Center.


In addition, an elevator will be put into the building, and it will have fire sprinklers, which were not required under the old fire code.

"We're getting everything ready to go," said Library Director Jackie Hess.

Dick Freske, of Professional Construction Services of Huron, helped prepare the project plan. He and Jirsa prepared a 22-point plan that Hess unveiled to the City Council last summer.

It called for a new circulation desk, improved computer equipment, enhanced lighting and doubling the size of the meeting room, since popular events there have forced people to stand or sit in the hallway.

"We will have the capability of breaking it in half and hosting two meetings," Hess said. "One for library programming and one for other uses."

Other improvements are part of the plan, such as designated areas for children's reading and summer programs, used book sales, as well as South Dakota history and literature.

A coffee cart will be added as well.

"It's going to be an all-encompassing project, you could say," Jirsa said. "We're going to be adding about 5,000 square feet and then do some system upgrades."


The new shelves will be more accessible to all.

"Our shelves aren't going to be as tall, so they meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements," Hess said.

"The bottom shelves will be curved up. They don't have to stand on their head or sit on the floor to look at books."

Hess said the library had outgrown its space, just as it did when it was at the old Carnegie Library, which now houses the Carnegie Resource Center. She said when the library moved from there in 1972, it had so many books the floors were sagging.

That's not the case now, Hess said, but there is a need for additional room.

"We're kind of cramped in here," she said of the work room space. "We just need more storage."

The elevator will be a welcome addition, Hess said. A 40-year dumbwaiter is "probably on its last legs," she said.

Jirsa said his goal is to bring the project in at its budget, or possibly below that.


"But you know a lot of it has the tendency to change, not always for the worse, sometimes for the better," he said.

The library, located at 221 N. Duff St., opened in 1972 after two years of planning and construction. For four decades, it served the community, evolving to include computers, e-books and other modern amenities.

While then-Councilman Greg McCurry questioned the wisdom of investing in a library in an age when people read more and more on handheld devices and laptop computers, Hess said at that meeting and again in mid-February that the library has a vital role to play in the community.

"Granted people are getting Kindles, but not everybody is," she said. "People with their Kindles are still coming in. We assist them in setting them up, or if they have questions with them.

"The public library serves people of all backgrounds and economic statuses," she said.

Some people rely on the library for access to books, magazines and newspapers, as well as computers and other modern devices.

The current library was built for about $400,000, Hess said.

This new project is being paid for with bond proceeds, but Hess has also promised to try to raise an additional $400,000 through donations.


"There are some companies or corporations that give donations," she said. "They offer grants for construction."

In addition, Hess said "hopefully" some private donors will come forward to assist the library.

Construction should start this summer, according to Jirsa. Engineers are working on design development and the structural, mechanical and electrical details. It's part of the "normal process" for a project of this scale, he said. By April, bids will be sought.

"Looking at possibly starting construction in mid-June or early July," Jirsa said. "That is realistic."

The plan is to keep the library open almost the entire 15 months that construction will continue. That is intended to benefit the community, Jirsa said, but it will add to the construction time.

"The whole library will remain functional the whole time," Jirsa said. He said "there may be a couple of those days" when the library will have to be closed during the process. But the goal is to minimize that, and maximize people's use of the facility.

"We will do our best to keep it open," Hess said.

It may have to close when wiring is being installed, especially if the air conditioing unit or heat is shut down to allow for the work. If that happens, the community will have advance notice, Hess said.


Jirsa said no parking spaces will be lost through this project.

Jirsa said the library will be landlocked after this expansion unless more land is acquired.

"We pretty much used up all the land that they have," he said. "It seems like it's going to work out fine. We're solving all the problems that they had. In a building that old, you tend to outgrow it."

There was discussion in 2012 of moving city offices to the library, and shifting the library to the Mitchell Technical Institute north campus, where it would share space with a Mitchell School District library.

City and school officials toured the MTI building and discussed that option privately and in public meetings, but the city chose to build a new city hall and expand and improve its library.

Hess said she thinks the council made a wise choice.

"I think there's a lot of people that use the library that are glad we're staying where we're at," she said.


Library patron
Bev Rowley, of rural Mitchell, looks through books Monday afternoon at the Mitchell Public Library. (Chris Huber/Republic)

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