Archive for the ‘library expansions’ Category


No keys left behind

March 26, 2010

Cleaning out the library over the past two weeks has been exhausting on many levels.  By Wednesday, I was so tired I could barely lift a garbage bag into the dumpster anymore.  So I had the bright idea that I’d just drag that bag across East Milwaukee on its way from my car to the dumpster.   Obviously my brain was about as operational as my muscles.  You have probably already guessed what happened.  Yep.  This is where the rubber (well okay, plastic) hit the road and caused a wee little hole to become wide and gaping, letting loose a string of trash across the street.   And the cars didn’t appear to mind driving over it as I stood there trying to decide how I was going to collect it all as it was being carried on toward Main Street.  And what timing on this unfortunate event as I was five minutes late for a meeting by then.  Even in nearly catatonic state, I know enough to call for help when it’s the best course of action.  I quickly enlisted the assistance of some of the faithful library cleaning crew and they managed to clean up the street while I heaved the bag into the dumpster once and for all.

And darn if that wasn’t all I threw in the dumpster.  Unbeknownst to me, I’d also tossed in my key ring.  The keys to my house, my car, the old library, the new library…my access to the world as I know it, just pitched right in.

I didn’t realize it until about two hours later when I was set to leave the library following the construction committee meeting.  I couldn’t locate my keys anywhere.   Because the library was virtually empty by then, it wasn’t like they could have been hiding in a mug next to the microwave.  Two trips around both floors of the library and I started to panic because my keys were nowhere to be found.

“Okay, just retrace your steps,” I called forth the words of wisdom I’d heard more than once before.  I finally spotted them peeking out from underneath the exploded garbage bag near the bottom of the dumpster.  I am happy to report that Kevin Becker from Yerges Van Liners, Inc. is a talented dumpster diver.  And he is so darn good-natured to boot.  He never said, “That’s not in my job description.” (I’m quite sure dumpster diving is not in a professional mover’s job description.)  He just smiled and scored my keys in record time.

So now you know.  The old library is so empty you could even find misplaced keys in a jiffy.  That is, if you’d actually left them in the building.

The temporary library opens on Monday, March 29th at 9 a.m. at the corner of Janesville and Rockwell Avenues.   We’ve been closed for two weeks and working very hard to make our new home ready.  Come and see!  I should have a much better grip on my keys by then.


The bids are in…

February 12, 2010

The bids were opened Tuesday.   They were excellent bids, not much difference from top to bottom.   I’m delighted that the bids met our budget expectations. I know a great deal of time and effort was invested by many people to prepare the bids.  Reviewing the plans and bid documents, analyzing the addenda, scrutinizing the project manual, it’s all a great deal of work within a limited time frame.  I’m grateful to everyone who made the effort to bid our project.   Unfortunately, we can only hire one contractor.  But in the hiring of  one contractor we will be building a library…and that will benefit thousands of people for many years.

The renovated and expanded library will be gorgeous and practical, a unique combination of past and future.  Many people have contributed to the planning process and for that I’m grateful.  I believe the best results are a product of many people’s ideas.   That so many would volunteer to help is testimony to the how important…and needed…this library is to our community.

I can’t remember a time when this library wasn’t important to me.

When I was a 13 year old girl and struggling to find a place in the world and reconcile my own sense of self, I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.   When I was was considering dropping out of college, I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.  When I was expecting my children, when I thought I had cancer, when I built a porch, when I went through divorce, when I bought my oven…I needed the Dwight Foster Public Library.

Every day I see how much the library is used and appreciated by folks just like me…whether a person is struggling or joyous…or somewhere in between.   That’s all the inspiration I need.  It engenders a great sense of responsibility in me as we stand at the beginning of the chapter that will allow us to grow and improve and ensure that the Dwight Foster Public Library is able to be that very special place it has always been for all who come after.

Twenty years from now, I’m sure there will be a 13 year old girl trying to figure out her place in the world who will seek answers in our library.  Shoot, we don’t have to wait that long; tomorrow we’ll have one walk through the door.


Embracing our “V”niqueness

March 10, 2009

For nearly one hundred years, people entering the library here in Fort Atkinson have been admiring the columns and stonework at the entryway of the Dwight Foster Public Library.

The name of the library, beautifully cut in the stone, makes an elegant statement.  It reads:  DWIGHT FOSTER PVBLIC LIBRARY.

So why does it say PVBLIC instead of PUBLIC?  What’s that all about?

I’ve been asked about that many times over the years.   People have suggested different reasons that the engraving above the front doors uses a “V” rather than a “U.”  One thought is that it was easier to carve straight lines than curved ones.  That seems plausible.   But then what about the letter “C”?  That’s a curved letter if ever I saw one.

The best explanation I’ve found is at the Henderson County Public Library website.  They are a Pvblic Library too.

Here is what it says:

According to the World Book encyclopedia, U was adopted from the Greek letter Y. The Romans dropped the bottom stroke and wrote the letter as V. This was used for both the consonant sound V and the vowel sound U. Some time around 900 A.D. people began to use V at the beginning of a word and U in the middle of a word. It was during the time between 1400 A.D. and 1600 A.D. that U became the letter commonly used for the vowel sound.

There was a Renaissance of the Classical style of architecture in the United States from 1890-1940. William R. Ware, the founder of M.I.T.’s School of Architecture, taught a style that he called American Vignola. (Vignola was an Italian architect who codified the standards for Classical Architecture in his work Rules of the Five Orders of Architecture)…

In the early 1900s, it was common for educated men to be taught both Greek and Latin. Therefore the people involved with the design of this building and many others during this American Renaissance more than likely would have known the Classic Roman alphabet used the symbol V for both U and V.

We are not the only library to be a “pvblic” library.  Pictures have been found of several other libraries where a V is substituted for a U. While their architectural style does not always match our Classical columns, domes and pediments, most of them were built during this time of American Vignola. So it is accurate to say that we were built during a time when architects and builders were embracing Classic themes. Therefore it is very likely that the engraving reads “Henderson Pvblic Library” because it was in accordance to what was popular in the architectural world at the time our library was built….

The oldest portion of our library was built in 1916.  So the timing is exactly right for this explanation.  And it makes sense that it was, indeed, an architectural statement…a “design thing.”   Henry E. Southwell of Chicago, son-in-law of Dwight Foster, who donated the funds to build a new library had only two stipulations attached to his gift.  One was that the library be of  “good design” and the other was that it be named in honor of Dwight Foster.

We’re happy to report, all these years later, that our library is still named Dwight Foster…and remains committed to the “good design” stipulation.

So DWIGHT FOSTER PVBLIC LIBRARY it is…and shall remain.  We’re good with embracing our “V”niqueness.

What's up with this "V" here?

Lazy stonecutter? Poor speller? Or good designer?


Build a better library…and the world will beat a path to your door

January 29, 2009

At the beginning of every year library directors tend to pause to take a breath and reflect on the previous year.

It’s probably not surprising but I can report that we did experience a significant increase in use just as has been widely documented all across America.  It really is true that during difficult economic times people turn to their libraries.

Our increase in circulation was over 6 percent in one year.

Additionally, the number of library visits grew 6.5 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Those numbers don’t necessarily sound like much but, trust me, it is a challenge to our staff to keep pace with the increased usage, adapt to the technological and work flow changes, and attempt to provide the highest quality library service with ever more limited dollars.

A couple days ago I decided to dig up the annual reports going back to 1983.  I chose that year because that was when the library last expanded.

I entered the number of library visits per year into the spreadsheet, used the tool to create a chart, and sat back to review the resulting image.  Wow.  The first thing that popped into my head was the old saying:

Build a better mousetrap…and the world will beat a path to your door.

In 1983 we recorded 35,047 library visits.  In 2008, we tallied 192,744 visits which translated to 636 people every day we were open and an increase of 450% (from 1983).

The next thing that entered my mind (after deleting the slightly distasteful mental image of the mousetrap and replacing it with an image of our library) was that the staff deserves so much credit.  After all, a library building is just the framework.  Excellent library service cannot be achieved without people committed to making it happen.  And this staff is committed.

I believe this place has always been incredibly special, a combination of stunning architecture and outstanding people.  Before the 1983 expansion this library was special.  After the 1983 expansion it was even better…more able to accommodate the many needs of our citizens.  We are looking forward to the next round of improvements and know that our community will demonstrate just how much they value their community beating a path to our door (which, by the way, we plan to move down Merchants Avenue).

So here’s a picture of the path of the last 25 years…


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