RIPLEY – “The Ripley Public Library is now in a position to help the community for many decades to come”, said Rhonda Thompson, director of the library, of the renovation project which began in 2019. “It was a real refreshment that this building and this city needed.
The significant improvements to the Ripley Public Library were officially unveiled at an open house recently. Regarding the newly renovated building, Thompson said: “Most people haven’t seen this. They will be impressed.
Those who hadn’t seen the library since the renovations began were quite surprised as what was once a quiet, outdated neighborhood in a more than a century-old building has been transformed into a bright, functional, and modern neighborhood.
Thompson said she was very happy with the success of the open house.
“It was a good turnout. I’m just shining today. People say great things about the library ”, she said.
Thompson said the renovations went better than anyone expected. “It’s beyond anything I imagined,” she said.
Robyn Albright, Library Newsletter Developer, “The bookworm”, said she was also amazed at the outcome. “I’ve been with this since day one and they had the library stripped down to the bare minimum,” she said. “I never thought it would be anything like this.”
While plans to renovate the building that was once the first Baptist church were discussed for many years, when workers began inspecting the structure in the summer of 2019, they discovered slanted support beams, sagging walls and a 5 ton hidden ceiling that pulled on the roof.
Several beautiful windows were also discovered, a 3-foot rose window turned into the Douglas-fir tower and a huge room in the steeple, Thompson said.
Removing the hidden ceiling also revealed a high vaulted ceiling with intricate wooden beads and arched, arched windows. As a result of all of these discoveries, the renovation plans were completely overhauled to try and incorporate the craftsmanship of the past generation, Thompson said.
However, Thompson noted that as renovations shifted into high gear, the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt.
“The biggest problem we faced was getting the materials to work. The pandemic slowed everything down so much because people were not working to produce the goods we needed and there were no longer trucks to transport the goods ”. she said. “Another issue with the pandemic was the closure of government offices, so grants and permits were on hold.”
Thompson and Chairman of the Board, Earl Freling, praised the professionalism of the employees of NuWood Creations, Inc., the company carrying out the renovations.
“NuWood Creations was wonderful with us. They ordered materials and then went to work on the demolition while we waited for the materials to arrive ”. Thompson said. “The NuWood designs were very professional and they kept most of our problems at bay or protected us from them.”
Thompson noted that one of the difficulties with the project was the order in which things were done.
“We had two phases of work going on and sometimes it just made sense to be part of phase 2 during phase 1”, she said. “It required architectural changes and unbalanced the budget.”
Many of the discoveries that were made have guided the course of the renovations, Thompson said.
“New ideas have sprouted, such as installing a director’s office in the bell tower”, she said. “We started working on this and then found out that a sprinkler system would be needed if we were to install what was considered a third floor. We have discovered that we need a new water pipe, because the one we have will not give enough water in the future, especially if we have to install the sprinkler.
Thompson said that among the finds that were made during the renovation was a beam that had rotted from water damage before the new roof was laid several years ago. Thompson said they had to bring in an engineer (at a huge cost) to figure out how best to approach the repair. She said the repairs that were made should stabilize the building for hundreds of years.
“Marshall Dixon, the foreman of the project, said he felt so much better in this building now,” Thompson said. “He said that probably within the next five years that beam would have fallen and the building would not have been saved. At this point he is 100% confident in the structure of this building so what was the worst find due to the nature of it was also the best find as we were able to get it fixed so that this building could represent another couple. Hundred years.”
Thompson explained that perhaps the biggest hurdle he encountered was the rising cost of materials.
“Building materials have increased by at least 300% during the pandemic. Therefore, we were not able to do as much as we had planned, because the funds would not go that far ”. she said.
As the cost of materials continues to climb, Thompson said, it’s difficult to estimate the cost of the work that still needs to be done.
“It’s really hard to write down the grants to compensate for that. For example, I hope to apply for another grant for the next part of this project in July. We will not receive any subsidy before December 2022 ”, she said. “We have to rely on an estimate made a year and a half earlier and prices are still going up.”
Nonetheless, renovations to the Ripley Public Library have created a safe haven that will have something for everyone and will not just be a library but a community center, Thompson said.
The library will offer so much to the community as there is more space available, she said.
“The public can now use the upstairs of the building. We will have a tutoring space for students to meet their tutors after school, ” she said. “We will have a dedicated area for teens so they can relax and spend time with friends. Eventually, we will also have a play area for them. “
Thompson reviewed some of the other new facets the library will have to offer. “There will be a reading room to read or think quietly. We have a media space, with space to learn or do yoga, or just watch a movie, ” she said. “We will have a space for the children to play and explore while their parents watch or play with them.”
The addition of new computers and free Wi-Fi, along with air conditioning, further enhances the building’s appeal, Thompson said.
“There will be at least eight computers for the public and free Wi-Fi for anyone who needs it”, she said. “The wi-fi will work 24/7, so it can be used even during closed hours.”
Thompson thanked the employees of NUWood Creations, Marshall Dixon, Earl Freling, the board of directors, the members of the Friends of the Library and all those who helped make the project possible.
“We’ve all worked really hard on this. We have a very dedicated group of people. It was a good central group and we couldn’t have done a lot without their help.
Thompson, who pointed out that “This renovation is really important for the community”, noted that it had been amazing to see him go this far. “There are a lot of hands to make it happen and I thank everyone who helped make this project possible,” she said. “All the fundraisers and sleepless nights are starting to pay off as we take a look at what we have done for this community.”
Thompson also pointed out that everyone should remember that “We haven’t finished yet; we have the other half to do now. Hopefully we will get the support we need to move on to the rest of the phases until this whole construction project is completed. “