Library Called 'Greatest Asset In Town'

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Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the success story that is the Payson Public Library is the fact that preliminary expansion plans are already under way.

The library, which celebrated its second anniversary in January, is already beginning to strain under the weight of its own popularity. Library director Terry Morris intends to make sure the facility, located at Rumsey Park, keeps up with public demand.

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Margaret Jesus, assistant library director, reads to children at the library's annual tribute to Dr. Seuss. The new facility was especially designed to be children-friendly, and many events during the year are designed to get and keep children interested in reading.

"I've plugged (the expansion) into the town's Corporate Strategic Plan for 2006," Morris said.

Since it's several years away, architectural renderings are not yet available, but the addition is currently planned for the north side of the existing facility.

"There's space there between the (existing) building and the street next to the dog park," Library Friends president Karen Wartick said.

The current facility was designed to accommodate expansion.

"In the very beginning when the plans were developed for the library, there were three points of expansion integrated into the master plan, and the north was one of those areas," Morris said. "Basically the plan is to build the expansion beyond the (large) window on the north side, then remove the window and move it out to the new wall so it would be the least interruption for everybody."

The 15,765-square-foot library features exterior 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 library also features a popular meeting room that is often used four times a day, and separate reading areas for children, teens and seniors.

Currently, 12,732 Rim country residents have library cards, and new cards are being issued at the rate of 140 to 150 per month, Morris said.

"People think this is the greatest asset in town," Wartick said. "It is so exciting because people just love this library."

Library Friends, the nonprofit organization that played a critical role in getting the new library built, continues to be a bastion of support. In fact, the group is already gearing up to help fund the expansion.

"We are looking for people to help the organization with time and energy and funds and ideas. One of the most significant things is bringing in people with more ideas," Wartick said.

Library Friends struggled for 15 years to raise money for the new library and provided funding to furnish the interior of the facility. The organization currently donates about $2,000 each month to the library for the purchase of books, tapes and other materials.

Other programs and services provided by Library Friends include:

  • The recent purchase of nine new computers for the library, which were required by Gila County for upgrading the card catalog system. Scheduled to be operational by the end of March, the new system will allow patrons to access the library's entire collection from their home computers, Margaret Jesus, assistant director, said.
  • Library Buddies, a program manned by Library Friends volunteers, delivers books to people unable to visit the library.
  • The General Education Diploma (GED) program for 16- and 17-year-olds is sponsored by Library Friends. The GED program allows students who have dropped out of school to fulfill the requirements to obtain a diploma.
  • The library's new $13,000 security system was purchased by Library Friends. The state-of-the-art digital system utilizes motion sensors to provide both internal and external surveillance;
  • Funding for the Summer Reading Program, Read Across America, and National Library Week is provided by Library Friends.

The major source of funds for Library Friends is the bookshop the organization operates inside the library. When books, magazines and other items are donated, Morris first selects those she wants to add to the library's collection.

The books that make it to the bookstore are carefully scrutinized by volunteers to sort out those that might have a high value. If an Internet search confirms their value, they are offered for sale at www.abebooks.com/home/LFOP/.

The vast majority of the books -- those determined not to be of special value -- are priced and put on the bookstore's shelves. The most expensive books, those published in 2000 and above, sell for $4. Anything published from 1995-2000 that is gift quality is $2. Everything else is $1.

Library Friends meets in the library community room at 10:30 a.m. on the second Monday of each month.

To become a member of Library Friends, call the library at (928) 474-9260.

Contributions to Library Friends can also be made at the library, and donations of books, new periodicals, video tapes, audio tapes, DVDs and books on tape are always welcome.

LIBRARY AND BOOKSHOP HOURS

Mon., Wed., Fri. -- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tues., Thurs. -- 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sat. -- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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