When the Rim country's children visit the new Payson Public Library, they'll be able to enter like Lewis Carroll's Alice through a little peoples' door into a special wonderland.
Local artist Melissa Peters, who did the King Arthur's castle mural at the old library, is hard at work in the children's room on a four panel mural that becomes increasingly fantastic as it meanders along. Its scenes feature whimsical characters ladybugs, bumblebees, fairies, gnomes and flowers, all with little faces painted on them in vibrant royal blues, bright yellows and several brilliant greens.
Peters, an air brush artist whose work is usually done on a smaller, more frameable scale, says her style lends itself to whimsical images that delight children.
"I have a childlike quality in the real/surreal way I paint, and it just kind of comes out that way," she said.
One of the more fanciful elements in the mural is a group of frogs wearing swimming trunks, which Peters borrowed from a quilt that will hang in the children's room. Crafted by local quilter Ginny Lennon, it's outside border is made from fabric featuring the frogs.
The final panel of the mural will be a picnic scene full of wondrous creatures, and the quilt will be incorporated as the picnic blanket.
Other elements planned for the children's area include a puppet theater and special furniture shaped like caterpillars, ladybugs and other creatures.
But the entire tone of the experience is established by the little door through which children enter the room, the brainchild of Library Director Terry Morris.
"I've always been fascinated by this store down in Phoenix called The Imaginarium," Morris said. "It's full of wonderful things for kids, and it has a little door the kids can go in and out of.
"I told the builder we had to have a little door. This is a little people's room, and this is their special door to come into this wonderful world."
As Peters labors in solitude in the children's room to complete her mural by grand opening day now scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 12 volunteers, movers and construction workers scurry around the main part of the library unloading boxes, putting books and tapes on shelves, patching minor flaws in the drywall, and performing a myriad of last-minute chores. But it's already starting to look like a library.
While Peters' mural dominates the children's area, it is four huge stone columns that provide the motif in the spacious main portion of the library.
"The architect suggested, and we agreed, that the stone reflects Payson," Morris said. "It's a nice architectural element for where we live."
One of the biggest surprises for Morris is how full the 15,765-square-foot facility is going to be when it opens.
"We have space that we never had before, but interestingly enough it's going to be full with what we had crammed in the other library," she said.
The library has ordered some 4,000 new books, and Morris said there will still be room for them.
"We've allotted space on the shelves for the new books, and we're going to put yellow dots on them indicating they're new books. That way, they'll be easy for people to identify."
Following the grand opening on Jan. 12, the library, located on McLane Road at Rumsey Park, will open for business full-time on Monday, Jan. 14. Until then, both the old and new library are closed.
While the project is already several months behind, Morris thinks those dates will hold.
"Everything but some of the furniture has been moved into the new building," she said. "We have volunteers coming in shifts."
Friends of the Library, a group that struggled for 15 years to raise money for the project, is continuing its efforts to furnish the interior of the library, and to possibly build an addition at some time in the future. Donations to the group's building fund can be made at the new library once it is open.
The Payson Town Council rearranged it's 2001 Corporate Strategic Plan priorities in February, deferring improvements to North McLane Road so the $1.8 million project could be paid for in cash, according to Town Manager Rich Underkofler. The $240,000 earmarked for library debt service will be applied to a feasibility study and other preliminary phases of a new multi-generational community recreation center.
Amon Builders of Payson is the general contractor for the new library.