‘More space, more accessibility’

Gutekunst Public Library to double in size

Expansion of the Gutekunst Public Library in State Center will consist of adding on to the existing building, doubling the library in size. The new building, styled in the “mother/child” building design, will be built slightly behind the original structure, but will connect to it. A wrap-around porch will also be installed.

STATE CENTER — The Gutekunst Public Library is not just a place to find books and other materials, but a community meeting place that nurtures over 30 programs a month. Monday morning, a public groundbreaking ceremony took place outside the library, signaling the start of a building project set to double the size of the library.

“I can’t believe it’s actually happening,” said a visibly excited Mara Edler, who serves as the library’s director, as she addressed those in attendance. “You don’t know how long I’ve dreamed about reaching this day.”

The 1.3 million dollar project has been several years in the works.

“In 2003, the board started to invest some of its operating budget, putting that money away [for use in expanding the library],” Edler said. “We took private donations, and received a large grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in Muscatine. The remaining $400,000 needed we are borrowing. No tax money is being used.”

In 2014, the library held a series of focus groups to better understand what members of the community wanted to see expanded at the library. Former library director Catherine Noble was also instrumental in the early planning stages of the expansion.

The library is a 4,300 square foot structure, built in 1924, as the home of John and Angie Gutekunst. In 1972, the couple bequeathed the house and three farms to the City of State Center. In 1974, the Gutekunst Public Library opened its doors.

“We have a beautiful and unique building and it serves our many patrons,” said Gutekunst Library Board President Michelle Wilkinson. “Just last month, we held 40 programs, and the expansion will allow for more space and more accessibility.”

The library, which has two floors plus a basement, will undergo two remodeling phases. First, a second structure will be built (where the children’s playscape once was), and adjoined to the existing building, positioned slightly behind the original library in a “mother/child” building design. This will be completed by Thanksgiving. It will be 4,000 square feet in size.

The increase in the library’s space will allow for the second floor to be used as a community meeting room for parties, clubs and organizations to use.

“Right now, when an event is going to have 10 or more people in attendance, we have to go off-site, usually to city hall,” Edler said.

In addition, more computers will be brought in for the public’s use, the Fiction 218 section will be expanded, and the facility will become ADA compliant with the addition of an elevator and a family restroom, with a diaper changing station and rocking chair for nursing mothers. All floors of the library will be made handicap-accessible.

Areas for yoga classes and story hour will be added, as well as a wrap-around porch. The displaced playscape will be added back to the grounds, and will be either restored or completely replaced.

Phase II, to be wrapped up in January/February 2018, will consist of moving all materials into the newly constructed building while the original library space is remodeled. The library will be closed for two to three weeks at that time.

While the building project has begun, it isn’t too late to get involved. At a cost of $100, people may purchase and paint a decorative tile, for installation in the expansion project. Children can donate to the “Coins for the Fountain” initiative, which is a coin drive aimed at raising $2,200 for the installation of a new outdoor drinking fountain.

To learn more about the building project, contact Edler at: 641-483-2741 or maraedler.lib@gmail.com.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com