Library Celebrates First Birthday

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Nobody could blame former Payson Mayor Ray Schum for savoring the moment.

It was the first anniversary of the Payson Public Library, a facility Schum considers one of the major accomplishments of his tenure as mayor.

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Ted Scholz, a member of the town planning and zoning commission, takes time out from the first birthday festivities at the Payson Public Library to check out some of the new arrivals at the Library Friends' used bookstore. The bookstore generates $800 to $1,000 each month -- money that is used to purchase new books for the library.

As he stood before an audience of the 250 to 300 people in attendance at the Chamber mixer held at the library Friday, he delivered the coup de grace.

"Those who said we didn't need a new library were wrong," Schum said emphatically.

The ex-Marine backed his statement with an impressive set of statistics on library usage during the facility's first year of existence.

Total circulation for the year 2002 was 151,612, compared to 96,579 for 2001, the last year of operation at the old location -- the Payson Womans Club on Main Street. The new library is located at Rumsey Park.

The total breaks down to an average circulation of 12,612 per month, 3,152 per week and 525 per day.

Even more telling was the comparison Schum made to other libraries in the county. Total circulation for the other eight Gila County libraries combined was roughly the same as Payson's alone.

As attendees sipped wine and devoured hors d'oeuvres prepared by Cucina Paradiso Restaurant, several people were presented the Nan Pyle Distinguished Service Award, named in honor of the woman who started the Payson Womans Club and the hospital.

Recipients of the award were Margie Bueland, Jackie Ricker, Peggy Gray, Jim Gray, John Wilson, Sue Wilson, Judy Buettner, Jim Buettner, Peggy Freeman and Romaine Brophy.

Schum also noted and thanked the large contingent of volunteers who contributed a total of 12,988 hours to the library in 2002.

"At minimum wage, they saved the library $66,883," Schum said. "But let's pay them $10 an hour, because they're worth it. At that rate they saved us $128,980."

Library Director Terry Morris confirmed Schum's assessment of the library's first year.

"It was phenomenal," she said. "When we were still struggling to build the building, the people in support of it kept saying, ‘Build it and they will come.' Oh man, have they. Right now, we're still averaging over 100 new cards a month."

But Morris emphasized there's still plenty of room in the 15,765-square-foot facility for new patrons.

"Come in and check us out," she said.

Library Friends President Mary Nolan said her group's building fund is already earmarked for an expansion of the library.

"The library was constructed to be expandable," Nolan said. "There's talk about it going out from the two sides. There's plenty of space to go toward the soccer field and to the road next to the dog park."

Library Friends also gives the library about $2,000 a month for the purchase of new books. Almost half of that money comes from revenues generated by the used bookstore the group operates at the library.

Morris said the library's first birthday party was a success.

"It was a great party, well attended, great food, good camaraderie -- just a perfect way to start another year," she said.

Schum couldn't resist driving home one final point.

"Best of all," he said, "this beautiful facility is all paid for."

The former mayor promised to turn his attention to getting a new community center built.

"While no longer in public office, I will devote all of my support and leadership into developing a community center that is badly needed, just as this library was," he said. "I see a community center right here in the front of the library."

Besides a growing need, Schum noted that the time is right to move ahead on the community center project.

"Let's not go through this same crap for 10 years that we did with the library," he said. "Let's do it now. We might have to have a revenue bond to put the indoor pool in, but the rest of it we can do with existing revenues. And if we can't do it, I'll run for mayor and by God, we'll get it done."

The library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays.

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