GENOA – Genoa Public Library Director Jen Barton got teary-eyed with emotion during her speech Friday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the library expansion a decade in the making.
“Ever since the board approved moving forward with the construction project on Monday night, I have been thinking about the enormity of this moment and the long and arduous journey that we have taken to get to this point,” said Barton.
At the empty lot next to the existing library at 232 W. Main St. in downtown Genoa, Mayor Mark Vicary, representatives from Genoa Main Street and the Genoa Chamber of Commerce, library trustees, library patrons, and community members celebrated the expansion made possible by the $1.7 million endowment from the estate of former Genoa resident Robert Weiss who died in 2009.
Their generous patron has “so patiently waited for this day to come,” library board President Michele Dvorak said.
Barton said that Weiss was not a library patron as far as anyone could tell.
The only connection to the library they discovered was that Weiss’ sister-in-law was a volunteer there during the 1950s and ’60s.
“I don’t know if I could really, fully express the depth of my gratitude for his gift,” said Barton. “We’re certainly gratified that he left the endowment to the library. It sort of defies logic in a way.”
The new building, scheduled for completion in 2015, will be a one-story structure connected to the current structure by a walkway, increasing the total library space from 3,400 to 6,000 square feet.
It will include a program room and expanded staff service areas. The library staff hopes it will become more of a community center.
“This is a big step for Genoa,” said Louise Hoffman, Genoa resident and former children’s librarian for 20 years. “I think it’s important for our community to pull forward and journey into the next few years with a new library.”
The new expansion could have a ripple effect through downtown Genoa, Barton said.
“It seems like we’re kind of at a point where there are lots of things happening down here and we’re excited to be a part of that, and maybe help drive it,” said Barton. “If people see the library making a major investment down here, perhaps that will inspire other people to look at coming.”
Some Genoa residents were excited about the groundbreaking for other reasons.
Eight-year-old Kaitlin Rahn loves to read. She especially enjoys American Girl books and Geronimo Stilton books.
“I’m excited,” Rahn said. “They’re probably going to get new books, so I get to try out new types of series.”