Mercer opens new $3.7 million library
Natalie Watts, standing, a staff member at the Mercer County Public Library, checks on her parents, Ken and Sara Niemann, and her son, Ian, who were among the visitors at Monday¿¿¿s opening of the new facility. (Erich Ruehs Photo)
“This is no doubt the absolute pinnacle moment in all my years working for this library system,” said Director Robin Ison, who is in her 18th year with the library. “This is such a proud day for us, and what a wonderful way to showcase Mercer County.”
The new building at 109 W. Lexington St. cost about $3.7 million. It consists of 22,500 square feet of space and is almost three times the size of the previous facility. It contains 80,000 volumes of books.
“We very much needed a new library facility for essentially three reasons,” said Ison. “First off, we simply no longer had the physical space to accommodate all of our patrons. In addition, our computer stations needed to be expanded — people just couldn’t get on the computers in a timely manner. And last, when you consider the population of Mercer County, we were well below the square footage recommended by the Kentucky Public Library Standards. What’s great about this new library is it takes into account the growing population of Mercer County and should serve as a model facility for many years to come.”
Sara and Ken Niemann and their 3-year-old grandson Ian Watts were among the visitors Monday.
The three already had declared their favorite spot in front of one of the two limestone fireplaces surrounded by lounge chairs and couches. As they sat, books in hand, they were even joined by their daughter, Natalie Watts, who is one of the library’s tech service coordinators.
Watts only had time for a quick “hello” before getting back to work but was happy to see her son in front of a roaring fire with a book in hand, even if it was a biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Our grandson already loves to read,” said Sara Niemann. “In fact, we’ve already got him into the habit of asking to go to the library.”
Niemann said she and her grandson will be regulars in the special children’s section of the library.
“We’ve already met Kathleen Day and she’s fantastic,” said Niemann, referring to the children’s librarian. “This is absolutely our favorite recreational activity for Ian, besides the park, that is.”
But Ian wanted his peers to know there is something besides books and a special computer room just for kids. “They have puzzles and not just books,” said the 3-year-old.
Niemann also recommends the new library to her peers. “They have a fantastic selection of books on tape,” explained Niemann, whose eyes aren’t as kind to her as in years past. “Discovering books on tape has become a true joy in my life. You can even listen to them in your car,” said Niemann, adding that she was going through “the DT’s” from not being able to go to the library over the last several months.
Another book lover on hand was Mike McRae, who decided to volunteer on opening day. “My wife, Trudy, works part-time at the circulation desk, and we can’t believe how many nice compliments we’ve gotten from the many patrons,” he said.
But Monday was a special day for the McRaes for another reason.
“The Mercer library has honored me by displaying my paintings,” said Trudy Jones McRae.
Her work, which she refers to as abstract-inspired and non-objective, has been displayed in the Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art in Frankfort and was even shown in Paris, France.
“It’s just so wonderful to have a fine building such as this in which to display my work,” she said. “Not to mention, a building that has walls big enough.”
Another volunteer Monday night was 23-year-old Travis White. “I just couldn’t miss this event and had to be a part of it,” said White. “I really believe this is an extremely important night in Mercer County’s history.”
And going by the attendance, White wasn’t the only one who thought so.