"Life is good," says Terry Morris, director of the brand-spanking new Payson Public Library.
Her enthusiastic assessment comes two months after the beautiful new $2 million facility opened at Rumsey Park, and reflects its near-overwhelming popularity among Rim country residents.
"Our circulation for the month of February was 13,000," Morris said. "That's up about 3,500 from last February at the old library."
Since the new library opened Jan. 14, about 1,100 new library cards have been issued. And while comparable figures are not available for the previous year, the 900 people who came to the library to use the Internet in February also represents a large increase, Morris said.
"We have been busy, busy, busy, busy," she said.
Actually, the entire year was busy for Morris and her staff. The groundbreaking for the new facility took place Jan. 11, 2001, almost a year to the day prior to its grand opening.
On that sunny winter day, then Library Friends President Judy Buettner told an overflow crowd of at least 150, "Dreams do come true."
As attendees packed a large tent set up for the occasion and spilled out onto the grass at the Rumsey Park site, Buettner and Library Director Terry Morris recounted the highs and lows and recognized the contributions of many in a 15-year struggle to raise the money to build the 15,765-square-foot facility.
The exterior features stone work reminiscent of some of Payson's early architecture, and provides casual seating areas where patrons can sit and read or just relax and enjoy a beautiful Payson day.
Inside, a large, round circulation desk is illuminated by the sun shining through overhead skylights shaped like mountains.
"The skylights form four peaks, and the light shines right through onto the desk," Buettner said.
The new library, which is about one-third larger than the old facility, also features a popular meeting room that is often used four times a day, and separate reading areas for children, teens and seniors.
While the teens area features a 1950s diner motif, it is the children's area that Morris is most excited about. Quilter Ginny Lennon and artist Melissa Peters, both locals, teamed up to provide the area with colorful, stimulating backdrops.
"Ginny Lennon, who is an accomplished quilter, made a quilt for the kids area," Morris said. "It consists of whimsical-type characters ladybugs and bumblebees and is done in vibrant colors royal blues, bright yellows and greens."
Peters, who did the King Arthur's Castle mural in the old library on Main Street, painted a four panel mural that becomes increasingly fantastic as it meanders along. Its scenes feature whimsical characters from Lennon's quilt 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 airbrush 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.
Best of all, when the Rim country's children visit the area, they enter like Lewis Carroll's "Alice" through a little people's door into a special wonderland. The door is the brainchild of Morris.
"I've always been fascinated by this store down in Phoenix called The Imaginarium," she 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 2001 drew to a close, Morris and her staff worked diligently to make sure all was in order for the January grand opening. While Peters labored in solitude to complete her mural, volunteers, movers and construction workers scurried 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.
One of the biggest surprises for Morris was how full the new library was when everything was moved in.
"We have space that we never had before, but interestingly enough it's full with what we had crammed in the other library," she said.
The library also purchased some 4,000 new books, and marked them with yellow dots for easy identification.
Library Friends of Payson, 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.
The group operates an on-premises used bookstore that Morris believes will eventually increase its product line to include library and town logo items, including coffee mugs, T-shirts and bookmarks.
"People can also order books there," she said.
Donations to the Library Friends of Payson building fund can be made at the new library.
The Payson Town Council rearranged it's 2001 Corporate Strategic Plan priorities in February, deferring improvements to North McLane Road so the project could be paid for in cash, according to former town manager Rich Underkofler. The $240,000 earmarked for library debt service was applied to a feasibility study and other preliminary phases of a new multi-generational community recreation center. Amon Builders of Payson was the general contractor for the new library.