Archive for the ‘Library Renovation and Expansion’ Category


More about our door!

October 11, 2012

Artist Kent Parks painting of our library door…prior to its last move!

Beautifully painted by local artist Kent Parks in 2005, the watercolor to your left depicts the library’s entry from 1983 to 2010.  The library now owns this painting and you can see it hanging in the hall on the way to the FCCU Community Room.  Come and see it in person!  It’s not to be missed!

From 1916 to 1983, the library’s entrance was situated at an angle at the corner of East Milwaukee and Merchants Avenues.

Due to the historic nature of the grand terra cotta pieces which include the columns and the carved stone naming the Dwight Foster Pvblic Library, the entrance has actually been preserved and moved twice.

In 1983 the entrance was moved down Merchants Avenue to approximately where the painting is now hanging.   The ledge to the right was the entrance floor from 1983 until 2010.

As a part of the library’s 2010 renovation, the entry was moved further down Merchants Avenue to offer a grade level entrance which was considered essential to making the library accessible to all.

For the second time, the terra cotta  was painstakingly disassembled, labeled, cleaned, stored, and finally reassembled at the current entrance location.

Generous donations to the capital campaign made it possible to preserve this important historical feature.  As a result, the terra cotta still stands today serving to welcome all who enter nearly 100 years after its original construction.


Coming soon…an entryway to magic

December 12, 2011

When I was a child, I always felt libraries were magical.  From a working class family, I depended on my public library for my reading and research.   We could not afford many books; but we could afford library cards.  So every week, when I opened the library’s door and inhaled that smell, I felt like I was entering a magical place, a place of refuge and opportunity.   At one point I remember actually looking around for the magic carpet.

A Kindle isn’t a place.  Therefore it doesn’t kindle in me the same sense of inspiration and awe.   Don’t get me wrong,  I think electronic access is important and helpful.  I own an e-reader.  Just try to get my smart phone away from me.  But, at the end of the day, it’s still about the place.

It’s that magical, mystical, beautiful place called the public library.  Where everybody knows your name.  (Well, okay, that might be true in some libraries but not all.  I’m getting carried away.)  This coming weekend, artists Jorn Mork and Bill Bale will be installing our beautiful new youth department entry art for our Batterman Children’s Library.    It is our hope that this piece will inspire in our children and our future children a love for books and learning.  A sense of place.  A memory worth cherishing.

Stay tuned for photos very soon.


Stunning Library Spaces

September 29, 2011
Thanks to Uihlein-Wilson Architects, photojournalist Michael Kienitz visited our library recently.   I don’t think words are necessary to tell this particular story.  Here are a few of his extraordinary images:

Dwight Foster Public Library (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Youth department in 2010 building (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Spiral staircase wraps around 1931 building (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Stairway to knowledge (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)


Fun Library Spaces

September 29, 2011

Teen space (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Youth department (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Upside down tree! (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Doorway to magical storytimes (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)


Quiet Library Spaces

September 29, 2011

Doors to our quiet area (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Looking into 1916 quiet reading area (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Jones Gallery - formerly the circulation area (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)

Study and reference space (Photo by Michael Kienitz courtesy of Uihlein-Wilson Architects)


So many thanks, so little time

January 17, 2011

Some of my favorite guys...rejuvenating at break time!

Next week we begin our move back to our newly renovated and expanded library.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity for ten solid months. Time to say a few words of thanks.

Kudos to Joe Daniels Construction Co. and all the subcontractors for their commitment to our project, their attention to detail, and their outstanding workmanship.  They have taken an extraordinarily complex job and tackled it the way Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews meets opponents…with energy and determination.

The architectural team at Uihlein Wilson Architects expertly led by Del Wilson has worked diligently and tirelessly on our behalf, especially Troy Wohlt.  Their library team envisioned a magnificent library for Fort Atkinson and then made it happen.

The library staff deserves more thanks than I have words for.  They’ve all gone above and beyond and then some.

The city and the library board were always there…providing vision and encouragement, support and insight.

The volunteers have lent the helping hands we’ve needed, whenever we’ve needed the assistance.

The donors delivered for us by giving funds when the economic woes were deep and wide.

Thanks to *everyone* who has helped make our library story include such an exciting and important chapter!  If I forgot to mention you, my apologies.  It’s surely not for lack of gratitude.

Stay tuned to see the results of all that hard work; we will be opening to the public at our new library on Tuesday, February 1.


A matter of perspective

November 15, 2010

The front of the stained glass as seen in the future new books area

The back of the stained glass as seen from my office

Wow.  They have installed the stained glass piece designed and created by Rudy Bushcott.  Rudy is Fort Atkinson’s assistant city engineer.  He gave the library this work of art a number of years ago.  We had it hanging up high, way above our checkout desk.  It was the best spot we could find for it in our old library due to space constraints.    Many people remarked on its beauty over the years.  But just as many people may never have noticed it because the placement and lighting didn’t do it justice.

When we cleaned out the old library, Rudy kindly came in and boxed it up for us so we could transport it to safety because we had plans to reuse it in our new library.

Not too long ago I got a call from site superintendent, Tom Laufenberg.  He said they were ready for it.  So back to the library it went for installation as the window to the director’s office.   The front side faces the new books area; the back side is in my office.  It’s eye level and the light shines through the glass providing the stunning view you see in the photos.

You will notice the view in my office is better than the view from the public side.  I actually asked Tom (as politely and carefully as possible)  if they’d installed it backwards.  He smiled at me and said, “No, Connie, we knew you’d want the front side facing the public.  We asked Rudy which was the front before we installed it.”   He showed me that the cables running down the backside determine orientation.  The difference, of course, is the lighting.  Because my office lights were not fully installed, the darkness of my office lent itself to the perfect viewing of stained glass.  The light from behind illuminates the piece giving it unbelievable depth and richness.  In fact, I could hardly imagine something more beautiful. The first time I saw it I found myself speechless.

In life, as in art, perspective matters.  The stained glass is the same as it has been since the day we first hung it years ago.  But looking at it in a different place changes everything.   When you look at anything in life from another angle you may notice something you missed before.  When you are in the midst of difficulties, it helps to remember that sometimes you actually need darkness before light shines through and repaints your picture.  In my own life, I’ve found that you just have to keep looking until you find the view that yields clarity.  This library project was years in the making and would not have moved forward if many people hadn’t had faith that our library could be expanded and redefined, much like a fully illuminated work of art, because it was brought forward during a very dark economic time.

I’m forever grateful to everyone who shared in the vision and helped.  When all is said and done, libraries are about helping people find their best view of life.   They allow someone to step inside and right into the shoes of another.  They teach people to reach.  They inform, educate, enlighten.  They afford unlimited opportunities for growth.

A library can not only change your perspective, it can change you.

Thank you for helping foster growth in such a beautiful way, Rudy.


Two doors down…and other changes afoot

November 1, 2010

There is little about our library that hasn’t been considered for change over the course of the last year.  We moved our entire operation last March and have been working on changing our old library building from the inside out since our departure.  (Actually, Joe Daniels Construction Company and its subcontractors have been doing that part.)

As a part of our design, we made the decision to move our front door further down Merchants Avenue.   This is the second time we’ve moved our front entrance.  The first move was made as a part of the 1983 expansion.  At that time we didn’t change our address; we opted to keep it as an East Milwaukee street address even though that had become the side street to the library.  Over the past 27 years, we have realized that having your front door on a street other than your address tends to confuse people.  We are now in the process of making an address change to reflect the fact that our front door is on Merchants Avenue.   When we move back, our address will be 209 Merchants Avenue.

And there are many other changes as well.  The most significant is that we will have two floors of service when we reopen.  That’s a very big difference for staff.  The upstairs will house collections for adults, quiet reading areas, and our research/technology center.  Our lower level will have our checkout area, the children’s library and a room for teens.  Bathrooms and meeting areas will be available on both levels.  We’ll be changing from two meeting rooms to two that are accessible after hours and five that are within the interior of the library.  Our sidewalk has also changed drastically.  The two levels of steps are gone as well as the retaining wall alongside the curb.  The entry is grade-level making accessibility profoundly easier.   The elevator has changed to an machine-room-less (MRL), high efficiency style and is located in the center of the checkout area.   We will have a self-checkout station as well as a staffed checkout.  Our materials return will not be at the front desk anymore but in the entry area accessible from inside and outside.  Our delivery door will move to the back so that all deliveries will be able to go directly into the staff workroom.  Our story time room will be adjacent to the children’s department instead of one floor away.  We are also thinking about changing our library hours based on study of usage patterns and our need to staff our building differently.

Not everything has changed.   You will see parts of our old building you recognize, I promise.  You will also see our valued staff members, in a different space, but with the same service philosophy.

I know change can be daunting and scary.  But it can also be fun and exciting as well as a real opportunity for fostering growth.  I will share with you some words that I refer to for inspiration.


Making the grade

October 11, 2010

The contractors have been working outside for some time.  The roof and stucco systems as well as the utilities installations are nearly complete.  Grading and sidewalk work have begun in earnest.  Ever mindful of the approaching winter season, the schedule is very tight related to outside matters.  Actually, the schedule is very tight overall.  And that’s a good thing because it allows us to stay on our timeline.  (More about our projected move back date…which is fast approaching…in a future post.)

This first photo is of the grading work in front.  The grading work is important because East Milwaukee Avenue is considerably higher than South Third Street.  We took advantage of that and moved our front door toward South Third Street.  That allowed us to have a grade level entry which we ranked as essential for accessibility.   At this point, we’ve come to the part of the project where they must make sure all the grades are exactly as they should be for both the sidewalk at the street and for the frost protection on the building.  Additionally, because South Third Street is fairly steep on the east edge of our property and then drops rather quickly, we had to carefully consider runoff and drainage issues as well.   Many thanks to Rudy Bushcott, Greg Greenhalgh, Tom Kopps, Tom Kramp, Greg Misfeldt, John Ottow, Brian Tracy, and Jeff Woods.  As we sorted through the site issues, their insight was invaluable.

Here is the scaffolding for the stucco system work.  I must say, when they are working in an area, they really work in an area!

And, finally, a photo of the new south end of our building nearing completion of the exterior.  This is a great view of the completed synthetic stucco, the tile roof elements, and the trim.  (Click on the photo and the picture will enlarge.)  The grading is still a work in progress, but don’t look at that.  Look at how beautiful our library will be!


Inside, outside, upside down

October 5, 2010

Some images from the library’s renovation and expansion project.  More about the upside down thing in a future blog post.

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