The Watertown branch of the Carver County Library is open once again this week after a month long remodeling project designed to add more resources — particularly in terms of technology — for local users.
Funded by Carver County, the city of Watertown and a sizeable number of private contributions, the $220,000 project roughly tripled the number of public use computers available to patrons, added several “collaboration stations” designed for multiple users at one computer station, and included two new self checkout stations.
The project also included a general remodel of the library space, which includes a reading or sitting area inside the front window, an expanded children’s area in the back featuring a window discovered during the renovation process, and pull-out media shelving along the west wall.
Carver County contributed $140,000 to the project and the city of Watertown provided another $50,000. However, the original scope of the project called for nearly $250,000 in renovations, which was pared down to $220,000, still $30,000 higher than the city and county’s contributions.
“There really is only a certain amount you can cut before you’re really jeopardizing the project, and we set that amount at $220,000,” Carver County Library Director Nick Dimassis said. “We said we’re going to raise $30,000 from the community. That’s really quite a large amount of money, and it’s quite ambitious. But we never doubted it because we know there is a history of giving in Watertown.”
Though the library re-opened for public use on Monday, June 3, and a grand re-opening ceremony is planned for June 23, private donors to the project were invited to see the finished improvements during a sneak peek event on Wednesday, May 29. Several hundred people donated to the project, either in the form of larger donations or in the form of $5 donations to the library’s “heart wall.”
Numerous people were involved in the process of soliciting donations from the community, making phone calls and visiting with residents either at the library or in their homes. Dimassis said that it was during that process of arranging meetings with potential donors — many of whom were unsure of who he was or what his role was with the library — that he began to realize just what Watertown residents value about their library.
“It wasn’t me that all of you were inviting to sit down with you,” Dimassis said to the group of donors at last week’s event. “It was Jan Nester, it was Kristin Jones, it was Heidi Hoks, it was all the staff of the library, current and past. The people that have helped you along the way, helped your kids or helped your grandkids. That’s when it sank in that this was not a library project. This was a community project.”
Hoks, the branch manager for the Watertown, Waconia and Norwood Young America libraries, also spoke at the donors’ sneak peek, pointing out that it was more than just monetary donations that made the remodeling project a reality. A large and efficient group of volunteers helped box up books and take down shelving in early May.
“I had our takedown scheduled for three days, and it was done in one day,” Hoks said. “It was because of the volunteers of Watertown. It truly shows the heart of the community to come in, be given directions very briefly, and just dig right in and work and work and work.”
While last week’s event was designed to show appreciation to private donors, Dimassis also pointed out the importance of the role that city and county government played in making the project a reality.
“Acknowledging this is what the library and the community needed is one thing, but it’s quite another thing to get the commitment and the funding to be able to realize that plan,” Dimassis said. “It was the best of local government seeing the city and county working together to be able to come forward and make this happen.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]