Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Overbrook turns page with community-backed library

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 2/5/2014

OVERBROOK — With community support and a generous donation, a new library is ready for its grand opening, organizers said.

In 2010, Glen and Claudine Norton left nearly $1 million for the renovation or building of a new library after Glen Norton died, Marni Penrod said. The Nortons designated three-fourths of the money to be set aside for construction and material needs and one-fourth for an endowment so the library could continue to use the interest it earned, Penrod, Overbrook Library board president, said.

OVERBROOK — With community support and a generous donation, a new library is ready for its grand opening, organizers said.

In 2010, Glen and Claudine Norton left nearly $1 million for the renovation or building of a new library after Glen Norton died, Marni Penrod said. The Nortons designated three-fourths of the money to be set aside for construction and material needs and one-fourth for an endowment so the library could continue to use the interest it earned, Penrod, Overbrook Library board president, said.

“It was a wonderful gift and it took awhile to decide what direction to head,” Penrod said. “Once we decided to explore renovation and expansion, the architect, Hans Fischer, he led us through a process where we went through a needs assessment and had meetings and open houses for people to come tell us what they’d like to see in a new building.”

Fischer and his partner, David Dunsfield, stayed a few days at the library once they had come up with a design concept to allow members of the community to stop by and see what was planned and offer their input, Penrod said.

“It was an interesting process,” she said. “I thought it was fun and a neat way to get everyone included. Each step of the way we tried to get as much information and input from the community as we could.”

The old library featured a large back room where meetings were organized, but he facility had only one set of bathrooms for the whole library, Penrod said. The design of the new building has a larger community room with a kitchen and its own set of bathrooms, she said, but there initially weren’t enough funds to support such an expansion.

“We decided to see if we could raise more money and make the community room bigger,” she said. “We started a capital campaign in September 2012 and raised money from the community near and far because we received donations from people who have moved away from the community, but still felt a connection to Overbook. We raised over $450,000 in donations in that capital campaign.”

The community room can be separated from the library if meetings are set for a time the library isn’t open, Penrod said.

A $400,000 Community Block Development Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce also helped aid in expanding the design to include the bigger community room, Penrod said.

“With those donations, we were able to go ahead and build out the design plan that was the full-size community room with the kitchen,” she said.

The library officially opened Jan. 6, she said, but a grand opening is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the library, 317 Maple St., Overbrook.

“It’s going to be mostly an open house,” Penrod said. “At the beginning we’ll have a short speech from the mayor because we had a huge effort from many people in the community — donations of time and skills, supplies, money to make it happen — so I want thank everybody.”

The overall space of the building is bigger, she said, and a few more computers have been added, which is something needed at the library for some time.

“Access to technology and the Internet is a big part of our library now,” she said. “It’s common for a lot of libraries to have Internet access because in rural areas it’s difficult and expensive for some [to have Internet access] and people come to Overbrook to use the Internet.”

The community banded together to make the library happen, Don Schultz, Overbrook mayor, said. That support wasn’t a surprise, he added.

“Since there was public knowledge of the gifts form the Norton family, there’s been excitement about how that would come together and what type of actual building we’d wind up with,” Schultz said. “When we opened Jan. 6, there was a lot of traffic and comments have been positive from children to adults and into our senior group that uses the library. It’s been reported as getting high marks from everyone. For a small town, I think we’ve got a tremendous effort and lot to be proud of.”

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