SPRINGHILL — The Webster Parish Library will be changing the location of its Springhill branch, currently the Mack Memorial Branch located on Main Street in downtown Springhill.
The new location will see the former Walgreens property on US Highway 371 renovated into the branch’s new home.
“For not much more money than the cost of the Main Street location renovation, library patrons in the north half of the parish are getting 1.39 acres and a 10,500 sq. ft., free-standing structure built in 2007,” Beverly Hammett, WPL executive director said. “[It] will be a substantial return on our investment.”
Hammett said benefits of the new location will include better access to parking and mobility, covered patio/reading area, a drive-up book return.
“It will be a beautiful new library to enjoy casual reading, life-long learning, or to search for anything from jobs to ancestors,” she said.
The project’s estimated cost is $1,291,000 for interior and exterior renovation as well as professional services, equipment and furniture.
After moving to the new location, the WPL hopes to sell the Main Street property.
The current branch is located in an early 1900s store. In 1992, the Mack family of Springhill donated the empty building to be used for a library, in memory of their parents, Willie and Mary A. Mack.
Hammett said in 1993, Lyda Madden spearheaded a campaign to pass a bond election that would be paid off in 20 years.
“With that money, we renovated the Springhill building, increasing the library from 2,400 sq. ft. to 8,100 sq. ft., and we built the new Minden Main Branch, as well as upgrading the other small branches,” Hammett said.
The Mack Memorial Branch was completed in 1996.
“I think we only had one or two computers at the circulation desk then,” Hammett recalled. “Fast forward 20 years, now there are 25 plus computers for staff and public use, as well as wireless access points, and a variety of other networking equipment and cables. “
Hammett said when considering a renovation for the current location, deciding factors weighed in favor of changing locations.
“It was not so much a need to change location as it was a question of what we could get for our money,” she said. “Whenever a major renovation is done, the rest of the building must be brought up to code, especially the electrical and plumbing parts. So a significant portion of our renovation money would have to go into areas that would never be seen by the public.”
In 2015, the Mike McSwain Architect firm was hired to design the project which was estimated to cost $1,800,000.
“For that amount, the library would only gain approximately 1,100 sq. ft. of new space and the rest of the money would be spent on major repairs and building code upgrades,” Hammett said. “It was assumed that the outer wall of the old library could be removed so the whole area would be open. However, we discovered that it was a firewall and would have to be left in place with only a door between the old and new spaces. Almost nothing inside the old library would look or function any differently.”
During this time Hammett’s co-workers began to speculate about the empty former Walgreen’s building.
“I never dreamed we could afford the purchase price, much less the cost to renovate, but they kept on me until one day as I was driving by, I stopped and wrote down the telephone number off the realtor’s sign.”
After a year’s worth of negotiations, the building was purchased leaving enough funds to remodel the inside to suit the library’s needs.
Hammet said the project would not have happened without the “constant nagging” of Kaitlin Chance, Kelly Gamble and Dwayne Stanley.