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Library News

By: Virginia Volkman, Library Director
For: Red Rock News
Date: May 7, 2010

Sedona Public Library Built by Our Community

The history of the Sedona Public Library is the story of dedicated citizens who dreamed and planned and worked and supported the effort to bring about the reality of a Library.  In 1958 the Library opened for business in the first of a number of locations.

I recently happened upon some old issues of Library newsletters and a 1993 story by Betty Tisch caught my eye.  Betty was a longtime volunteer, Library Board member and annual Book Sale chairman and I feel privileged to have worked with her.  I well remember when the library started investigating ways to expand the 5,000 square foot building on Jordan Road back in 1985. 

Quoting from Betty’s story, the options were, “Shall we finish the upstairs?  Push out to the west side?  Try to buy the whole block?  After careful consideration, none of the proposed solutions proved feasible.”

In January 1986, Sedonan Ethel M. Low donated $326,400 to buy land for a new and larger library.   “Mrs. Low said that she wanted to do something of long-lasting benefit to the community.  She felt that the Library offered a service that would always be needed, and one that would benefit people from every walk of life.”

In October 1991, the Board of Trustees decided to break ground and start construction, even though all the funds were not yet raised.  The consensus was that when Sedona area citizens saw the building taking shape, they would respond with contributions to finish the job.  In the fall of 1992, a slowdown of anticipated contributions halted construction on the building.  Although the exterior was built and the interior was ready for finishing mechanical and carpentry work, the Building Fund was almost exhausted. 

In the spring of 1993 Betty Tisch wrote:  “No one has ever doubted that we would, one day, move into a new Library facility designed for our present and future needs.  We are certain that the Sedona community will contribute the dollars necessary to finish the job.”  And the contributions did continue to come in and the new building on White Bear Road opened in June 1994.  Work continued to be done on the building throughout the next few years.

Wondering where the funds to build the new library on White Bear Road came from?  “The Book of Honor” records the names of 2,287 donors to the Sedona Public Library Building Fund.  Names of individuals, families, businesses, clubs and organizations who made donations large and small totaling more than $2,400,000 are listed.  These contributions came in over a 10-year period from the planning stage through completion of the building.  Just like the Jordan Road building, the new Library was financed entirely with gifts from citizens -- not community, state or federally-derived tax funds.

Another newsletter details the construction industry’s gifts of materials, discounts, professional services, and labor which lowered construction costs significantly.  Project Manager Steve Driscoll gave many hours of time coordinating special pricing for materials and labor for the building.  He also provided labor and equipment from his construction crew at direct costs.

According to Driscoll, “Everyone who’s working on the project wants to stand there one day and say there it is… I helped build it.  They’re taking extra pride and care in everything they do.  It’s their library, too.”

Verde Valley Glass and Western Insulated Glass teamed up to provide and install all windows for the project at cost as one of the first construction industry gifts to the new library.  Sedona Sheet Metal arranged air conditioning and heating equipment and installation at a 25% discount.  Mountain Country Supply and Steve Ash Plumbing negotiated with Kohler Co. to donate all the plumbing fixtures at no charge.  Ash donated the labor for installation at cost.  The list goes on for pages and cost savings added up to over $100,000.

Design Group Architects Mike Bower, Rich Caragol, and Max Licher donated many hours of time preparing initial working drawings, charging only a fraction of their standard professional fees for a comparable project. 

Large contributions funded masonry columns and special areas of the building.   Take a tour of the building to view all the plaques.  Although not on view to the general public, the plaque outside the Business Office was from a bequest designated by Wes Lowell.  He was one of the first Treasurers of the Library Board of Trustees, pre-dating the Jordan Road building.  He was an avid library user and not only gave his time, but also his funds, to help the library achieve such a prominent status in the community.  Patricia Lowell, his surviving spouse, commented:  “Being a very private person, he would be pleased to be in the background, but watching over the accounts.”

Some long-delayed projects are just being completed at this time.  Parking lot lights were installed in the spring of 2009 and the lot was also expanded at that time.  The White Bear Road entrance to the parking lot will be paved this spring.

As we finally complete some improvements, we also contemplate the replacement of original installations within the not-too-distant future.  Whenever possible, we’re replacing original equipment with more efficient fixtures.  In April we installed water-saving automatic water faucets in the public restrooms.  Design Group has completed a Repair and Replacement Study that will help us determine future needs and costs.

The need for the community’s support is ongoing.  Most of the funds for the day-to-day operation of the Library now come from the City of Sedona and Coconino and Yavapai Counties, but those funds are diminishing with the economy’s decline.  Support from the Friends of the Library and private donations are still the main source of funds for purchasing new books, CDs, DVDs and electronic resources.  Private donations also pay for capital improvements and major repairs to the building.  We appreciate the past contributions and ask for your continued support of the Sedona Public Library.

Virginia Volkman, author of this week's article,
is Director of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.