Starting A New Chapter

Overcoming setbacks and funding delays, Payson Library finally branches out

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The story of a community push to build a new public library in Payson, which was beleaguered for nearly 15 years by false starts and funding problems, is finally poised for a happy ending.

For years, the plan to build a new 15,765-square-foot library in Rumsey Park to replace the cramped 8,000-square-foot building on Main Street was a work of fiction. The library has been housed in a section of the Payson Womans Club since 1951.

But each time an avalanche of adversity threatened to bury the project, somebody came to the rescue with a timely donation, a little extra legwork or a helpful legislative assist.

In September 2000, the project was set in cement following a groundbreaking ceremony. The official grand opening is tentatively set for November 2001, when general contractor Amon Builders turns the completed $2-million building over to the people of Payson.

Nobody is happier about that than Library Director Terry Morris.

"It's like dying and going to heaven," she said. "The excitement that's happening in the community is really very interesting. I'm stopped in the grocery stores, by people coming in here. Not a day goes by when I don't hear, 'Oh, we've driven by the new site and it looks wonderful!'"

The exterior of the new library, which will be one-third larger than the current building, will feature stone work reminiscent of early-Payson architecture.

Inside, patrons will find casual seating areas where they can sit and read or just relax and enjoy the day. A large, round circulation desk will be illuminated by the sun shining through overhead skylights shaped like mountains.

The library also will have "more videos, more CDs and more books on tape," Morris said. "We're hoping to apply for a grant to put together a homework center which would entail having either older high schoolers or retired teachers come in and help kids with their homework in an after-school setting.

"The kids' area has the potential for having a puppet theater for more and longer story hours. And there will be more cultural programming for adults and kids."

Such enhancements were made possible by a number of anonymous donors who helped the Payson Public Library's support organization, the Library Friends of Payson, reach its donation goal of $100,000 in early 2001. Another literary fan offered to match all funds raised up to the amount of $100,000 pushing the grand total over the $200,000 mark.

To make a donation, contact the Library Friends of Payson, Box 13, Payson, AZ 85547, or call Judy Buettner at 472-9015.

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