CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Carthage Public Library is celebrating two milestones — adding new space while repairing the damage caused by a fire sprinkler system failure to some of its oldest space back in July.
Members of the library board, the Steadley Trust Advisory Board and some of the groups that donated to the project gathered with the library's director, Julie Yockey, and her staff on Tuesday to cut a ribbon and celebrate the completion of the Steadley Family Legacy Center, a new building on the Carthage library grounds dedicated to learning skills and making things.
The library staff is also celebrating the near completion of the repairs to the original Andrew Carnegie-built section of the library after an estimated 150,000 gallons of water poured from a failed fire sprinkler pipe overnight on July 12.
The building has been dried, and interior walls and the basement cleaned and repaired. Furniture has been replaced, and books and other reference materials are being put back in place. Yockey said she hopes final repairs will be completed sometime next month.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Yockey said. “We’ve been working under three timelines. We started a new building a year ago in November. COVID-19 started last March, and then the water damage happened in July. We’ve had those three projects going. So now, the new building is done, COVID is still a problem, the water damage is almost repaired, and we’re just almost there. Hopefully by January we’ll be done with repairs and just waiting on COVID to subside.”
The idea of a new building on Carthage Public Library grounds was born out of the need for storage space in the main library, but it’s grown into a space that will provide opportunities and learning for generations of future Carthage residents.
Yockey said the COVID-19 pandemic will keep the Steadley Family Legacy Center, along with the rest of the library, closed until at least January, but once the pandemic subsides, the space will come alive with children and adults learning skills and making things they might not have dreamed possible.
“It’s a huge gift to the people in Carthage,” Yockey said. “We’ll have our adult education classes. We’ll have make-it, take-it classes. We’ll have cooking classes. We’ll just have independent time when you can come out there and work on a project that you want to work on. But honestly, the children will take up a huge part of that because it’s such an awesome space.”
The Kent D. and Mary L. Steadley Memorial Trust donated about $500,000 to build the building while a host of other groups, including the Helen S. Boylan Foundation, the Thelma Stanley Trust, the Carthage Public Library Development Foundation, McCune-Brooks Regional Hospital Trust and private individuals gave the $200,000 needed to furnish and equip the building.
The building has a full kitchen to allow for cooking classes for adults and children; a 3D printer and laser etching printer to allow people to make small plastic toys or parts; and tools, supplies and equipment that can be checked out for use on home repair or other maintenance projects by anyone with a Carthage Public Library card.
It has games and toys to help younger children learn how gears, wheels and other basic concepts work, and it has computers and robotics to help older children learn about coding, programming, video and audio editing, and other computer concepts.
Mike Tolle, systems administrator at the library, said the computers will open vast opportunities for children and adults.
Ben Young, the new makerspace administrator in the new building, said the sewing machines that are available for checkout excited his mom.
“My mom is a seamstress, and she’s taught me a lot of what she knows,” Young said. “I can barely sew a straight line. My mom gets requests all the time to fix hems or fix a blanket or a curtain that’s torn up, so this is nice because we’ll be able to get people in here and teach them.”
Young said the other elements in the building will open up possibilities for people who use the building.
“I’m excited about all of it and the ability to teach people,” Young said. “This has been a passion of mine for a long time. Every time I start up the laser cutter and printer, people are like, whoa. And the 3D printer, we printed some chess pieces to show off. I think the kitchen is big too. "
Yockey said one of the most depressing moments of the summer was the night of July 12 when she got a call from Carthage fire Chief Roger Williams.
“I was three weeks from shoulder surgery when the phone rang that night at 1 a.m.,” Yockey said. “It was Chief Williams, and he said, 'Julie, you've got to get here because we can’t get in the building, and all we see is water in there.' We had 3,000 gallons of water a minute running for about 50 minutes in here, and it totally destroyed the original library, first floor and basement floor. Today when you see it, you see all the ceilings, walls, lights, flooring, everything has been fixed and replaced.”
The library didn’t lose anything irreplaceable from its collection of old books and reference material.
The contractor is waiting for flooring material to finish the basement meeting rooms.
Yockley said the library’s insurance company paid in excess of $500,000 to repair the damage and replace the items lost in the incident.