Library operations moved to new addition as renovations continue at Murphy Helwig Library

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Plans have been in the works for several years for the expansion, with work commencing in late spring. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Murphy Helwig Library’s main operations have now moved to its new front (shown here) and side additions while renovations take place in the original section of the library.

The library’s new meeting room currently houses books. The expansion project is expected to be complete in mid-December.

People can now enter the library through the front door (shown here), and many have remarked on the additional space, said library director Chris Bee.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Monona's Murphy Helwig Library was closed last week as books and computers were moved to the library’s new addition to accommodate renovations to the original section of the library. This was the first major closure of the library since construction began in late spring on the expansion project.

Plans have been in the works for several years for the expansion, which includes a new addition to the front of the building. It will house the children’s collection and activity area. On the left side of the library (from the front), a meeting room has been added along with a young adult area and a study room. 

The updates also include the creation of two entrances into the building that allow visitors to go either straight into the library or into the meeting room. The meeting room can then be used without disturbing other parts of the library and even when the library is closed. 

For the time being, these new areas will house the library’s main operations.

“We had a lot of help,” said library director Chris Bee of the move. “We moved everything the first day, then it took 1.5 days to organize it. That’s 2,000-plus books. We really needed every day to get things operational.”

The library re-opened Monday afternoon, and Bee said it’s been a little challenging helping patrons locate books.

“It’s a learning process for everybody,” she said.

People can now enter through the front door, and many have remarked on the additional space, Bee said.

“I love the windows and a lot of the features the architects included. There’s a nice study room,” Bee said. “It’s just going to really be beautiful.”

In addition to more space, the expansion involves some other updates, including ADA compliant restrooms, energy-efficient heating and adequate electrical receptacles.

“There’s a top-of-the-line heating and cooling system,” Bee noted. “It will be very efficient and LED lights will save us a lot.”

Once complete, the library will have several Wi-Fi hotspots, Bee said, to make sure everyone has good coverage. There will also be plenty of outlets.

In the next two weeks, Bee said she hopes the parking lot will become operational. The project should wrap up in mid-December, when the library’s new furnishings arrive. The library’s programming, like its monthly Coffee House, will resume in January.

Bee said she’s enjoyed working with everyone throughout the project. FEH Associates, Inc. has provided architectural services. Brenton Buildings, of Monona, is the general contractor.

“If there’s a question, someone’s there to figure it out,” she said, “and they’ve been great about helping us stay open. There are a lot of temporary fixes (restrooms, library set-up) to get to the final product.”

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