RAVENNA — Karrie Huryta can’t say enough about the new Ravenna Library.
Set to open Wednesday, it has a community room, a genealogy room and a storage room that doubles as a storm shelter. Its inviting children’s room has books, toys, games, a puppet theater and tiny rocking chairs.
It also has eight computers, windows and a cozy seating area nestled in front of a fireplace, not to mention its 11,000 volumes and e-book collection called OverDrive. Best of all, it’s all conveniently located on just one floor.
“At last, after 15 months of construction, it’s finally becoming real,” Huryta, the library director, said this week.
The new library at 324 Milan Ave. marks a rebirth for the corner where a laundromat and a sagging house once stood.
It’s a rebirth for the library, too.
The 7,611-square-foot structure is nearly four times larger than its 2,000-square-foot predecessor at 121 W. Seneca St.
It all came down to handicap accessibility. The city, which owns the library, considered renovating the century-old Carnegie-style structure, but ADA issues stood in the way. Library visitors had to climb stairs from the sidewalk to the front door. Once inside, they climbed more stairs up to the main level. They descended more steps to take little ones to the children’s room in the basement.
“If we had put in an elevator, we’d have had to take out a large area of our shelving, but then the library wouldn’t have been big enough to allow wheelchairs to get around,” Huryta said. Bathrooms and hallways were not ADA compliant, either, and the old structure had pesky basement drainage issues.
After two years of discussion and fundraising, ground was broken for the new facility on April 9, 2017. The contractor was On Point Construction of Ord.
In recent weeks, Huryta and assistant library director Joy Kyhn have been buzzing like bees preparing for the move. Early Thursday morning, she directed Ravenna High School football players as they began moving furniture from the old library into the new one three blocks away.
New, lower bookshelves, accessible to people in wheelchairs, will be placed three feet apart to provide ample maneuvering space. A large table, children’s room furniture and the 100-year-old circulation desk are coming over from the original library. “That desk is original to the old building, and it’s a handicapped-accessible height,” Huryta said.
Doors on the genealogy room came from the old library, too, as did cupboard doors repurposed as wainscoting for the genealogy room walls. The genealogy room, which is named for Black Hills Energy that contributed $25,000, will have issues of the Ravenna News dating back decades, along with vintage books and other material useful to people who are researching family history.
The community room will host family movie nights, the weekly LEGO Club, game days and speaker presentations. The room also may be rented for private events, club meetings and parties.
The library is being funded by the city, grants, donations, Give Where You Live money and the Friends of the Library’s Behind Every Great Library is a Great Community campaign. Inside the library entrance are four glass cases of donor-purchased bricks that were enscribed with names of family or friends.
On a high wall beyond the sunny entrance will be a 5-foot by 3-foot zinc plaque that World War I veterans donated to the old library in 1921. The Veterans of Foreign Wars are paying for the plaque’s relocation. A shadow box of original bunting from that dedication will be displayed, too.
A 2003 graduate of Ravenna High School, Huryta grew fond of libraries when, as a student, she worked in the University of Nebraska at Kearney library. “I remember playing librarian as a kid, too,” she said. Except for two years as a pharmacy technician, she has worked at the Ravenna library since graduating from UNK.
“I really like helping people. I enjoy books, but a librarian must be open to more than just books. We provide things for the community,” she said.
The library will be dedicated sometime in late August when the dust and frenzy of the move have subsided, she said. Meanwhile, the 1918 library will not be demolished. The city is exploring for a new use for that structure.