Forty thousand historic photographs, racks of blueprints, and acid-free boxes containing documents dating back to the 1800s now sit safely — stacked floor to ceiling — in a new storage room in Willard Library. While the public showed its appreciation for the 8,000-square-foot expansion featuring a beautiful wood-paneled gallery on Feb. 7 (a day with uncharacteristically nice weather), Director Greg Hager stresses the importantance of the project for the library’s significant archive collection.
“We needed a better place to house our archives,” says Hager. “That way everything could be supervised and safe. With the addition, it allowed us to have all of the archives in one place. Before, we had offsite storage, because we didn’t really have the room.”
Construction of the $2.4 million expansion on the state of Indiana’s oldest public library building began in December 2013 and lasted around a year.Willard opened its doors in 1885 and never had been expanded until now.
“We had beautiful weather for the grand opening,” says Hager, who has pioneered the renovation from the beginning. “People were in a great mood, too. People I didn’t even know came up to hug me.”
The 8,000-square-foot addition is designed to look like a Victorian garden wall, matching the style of Willard. With intricate woodwork and deep red walls resembling the original color of the library’s interior, the renovation includes a gallery complete with a screen, projector, seating for 150 people, and four display cases showcasing documents from Willard’s archives. For more information about the exhibits, visitors are invited to use interactive iPads available alongside the display cases.
The addition also houses storage filled to the ceiling with archives.
The third room added in the expansion contains 12 tables and a circulation desk where library-card holders can request archival information or rent the 10 Lenovo laptops Willard provides. Visitors also can view historic photos of Evansville and Willard displayed around the room. The room opens up to Willard’s outdoor park with picnic tables, fountains, and equipment available to borrow, such as footballs or chess games.
“It’ll allow people to transition from the addition to the park and vice versa,” says Hager.
For more information about Willard Library, call 812-425-4309 or visit willard.lib.in.us.