New Soldiers Grove Public Library offers modern, comfortable space
By Correne Martin
The “Little Library That Could” in Soldiers Grove raised more than $680,000 to renovate and expand its space into more of a community center where all ages can learn, study, and delve into important information from the past and present.
Now, the impressive “new” bi-level library welcomes visitors with its warm color palette, expansive shelves of intriguing materials and computer space for adults and children, modern technology, plentiful and comfortable seating, locally-created artwork and furniture and much more.
The facility was formerly both the library and the adjoining pharmacy (which has moved to a different location).
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to tour the renovated facility, this weekend will be the perfect time to do so. The Soldiers Grove Public Library invites everyone to 102 Passive Sun Drive in the Solar Village for an Open House Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15. The event, which is intended to give community members an official introduction to the state-of-the-art library, is being held in conjunction with the Driftless Area Art Festival in Soldiers Grove.
“This would’ve never happened without the community support we’ve received. That’s what’s most beautiful about it. We hope our Open House will give people in the community a chance to stop by the library while in town celebrating the arts,” Library Director Cele Wolf said.
Open House hours are from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a solar tour at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors can browse the library, learn about the renovated solar heating and air conditioning, enjoy refreshments, and chat with library staff and board members. They can also get details on the patio-pavers commemorative program.
Exploring the new Soldiers Grove Public Library offers a cozy and endlessly enlightening experience for any guest.
The journey begins when you push through the front doors and step inside the very open concourse area. From there, you can see nearly the entire library, including the front desk, the card catalog kiosk and most of the collection. The whole facility is brightly lit with energy efficient lighting, which can be adjusted to fit any task.
As you make your way through the expansive rooms, you’ll find nooks all around devoted to the different literary genres and purposes of the library.
You will observe the latest technology, including two touch screen computers and several laptops, which can be moved around for convenience.
You will find four two-person tables dedicated specifically for the use of patrons who bring in their personal computers and portable devices.
You will pass through the reading room, furnished with relaxing chairs as well as a dining table that can be utilized for group study.
You will be taken back to your childhood in the children’s library, which is not only overflowing with books, puzzles and small games, but can also be arranged to accommodate youth groups awaiting their next imaginary adventure. The furniture in the children’s library is fun and functional. There is also a play stand that can be used as a puppet theater.
Also on your tour, you will encounter a kitchenette, which includes a single shot coffee/tea maker where guests can donate for a cup.
If you wish to go upstairs to reference local flood history, family history, newspaper archives, school yearbooks, and local authors’ works, you can either take the stairs or take a ride on the lift. It is handicapped accessible and also great for senior citizens or people who are unable to walk the stairs easily.
“A lot of people are grateful for the lift. Otherwise they could not use the upstairs,” Wolf said.
On the second floor, you will find another workspace where patrons can spread out and research genealogy or hold meetings. You will also catch a glimpse of the solar attic, which helps to heat and cool the library. The solar panels in the library were originally from 1980 and they had totally outlived their lifespan. The panels have now been replaced with a state-of-the-art system that is estimated to save the village between $3,000 and $4,000 a year.
“This library has been carefully planned to be a very sustainable facility to take us well into the future,” Wolf said. “In the old library, people were sitting on top of one another, we had extension cords everywhere for laptops, and we had part of our collection in boxes behind my desk. I don’t feel bigger is always necessarily better but it was time to expand. We were just making it work before.”
Some of the most homelike and meaningful characteristics of the new library have come directly from the hands of the sincerest Soldiers Grove community members. Glancing around the rooms, you cannot miss the hand-crafted paintings, quilts, tables, shelving, chairs, coat rack and even the landscaping—all provided thanks to local contributions.
“It’s gifts like these that make it feel like home,” Wolf said. “We had some patrons who couldn’t give financially, so they gave in other ways that they could. This project has brought the community together so wonderfully.”
The new Soldiers Grove Public Library is certainly a good example for other libraries looking to renovate or expand. Wolf said many directors have already toured the facility and taken home ideas.
She also believes the Soldiers Grove project is a sign of the times.
“When times get tough, libraries get busy,” she stated. “We have something to entertain everyone and it’s all free. Our patrons don’t always have Internet at home either, and with our world increasingly revolving around the Internet, people need to come here to fill out their Social Security forms, or simply print or scan something. People also like to bring their personal computers and just spend time in a quiet and comfortable community place.”
The library’s renovation and expansion project wouldn’t have been possible without gifts from generous corporate and foundation sponsors as well as grants from the Community Development Block Grant Program (facilitated by Community Development Alternatives of Prairie du Chien), USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Grant, and the Crawford County Community Fund, which is a branch of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.
For more information about the renovation and expansion project, the library’s hours and more, call (608) 624-5815 or visit www.soldiersgrove.com/Library.htm.