The Madison County Public Library is palace for the people.

It is a palace built for them where crucial connections are formed. It encompasses not only books, but the resources and tools needed to succeed in an ever-changing world.

And the world began changing at the MCPL's Richmond branch more than two decade ago, according to MCPL library director Ruthie Maslin.

"I think it was in the minds of the library (board) before I was even here, the need for growth," Maslin said about the inception of the library expansion.

Maslin said the library has state standards that dictates how much space they should have per capita, as well as guidelines they are supposed to follow.

"We are the ninth largest in state, Madison is, but we have never met the state standard for space per capita so we saw the need for growth for many, many years," she added. "But it's always a balancing act of finances and the uncertainty of if libraries were going to continue (to exist)."

Maslin started putting the idea down on paper in the spring of 2011 by getting a group together to figure out construction and financing through the state by way of grants. She said it took several legislative sessions for a grant to make its way in the budget, but as soon as it did, they immediately applied for it.

But in the meantime, Maslin and the Friends of the Madison County Public Library did strategic and long-range planning for a year, holding community forums about the expansion to see what the needs and wants of the public were. Something else they took into consideration was the growth of the county. With a location in Richmond and in Berea, Maslin and the board wondered if the county needed a third library or if they were going to expand one of the current structures.

In 2016-2017, the ink on the papers began to dry and the expansion started to become a reality with the grant in hand to help with the cost of the project.

"That has been such a benefit to us to get that construction grant because what it does is, for 20 years, we get $100,100 a year to help with the cost of the bond issuance, so it's debt service," Maslin explained. "So over the course of 20 years, that's a little over $2 million that helps to cover the cost of the project. That's been very helpful to us."

The grant, called the Public Library Facility Construction Grant, also brought with it a great partnership with the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, which the grant is also administered through. The KDLA partnership created accountability for project as well, according to Maslin. In between reports and powerpoints about the expansion, representatives from KDLA would stop by to examine things as they were being built.

The elevation from the very back of the library property to the back of building had enough of a rise that they were able to add a bottom floor the current structure, as well as a third floor on the top. The Richmond library went from 19,104 sq. feet to 39,604.

"I would never have envisioned that we would have a multi-story (building)," Maslin said.

The total cost of the project was budgeted for $5.76 million. A chunk of that money went toward construction, while some of it went towards furnishings needed for the new expansion, such as the uncountable amount of tables and chairs needed to fill the spaces.

The grant required the library putting cash into the project, which Maslin said they were prepared to do.The library board had money set aside for the expansion.

"We are putting in about $750,000 in cash and we've bonded about $4.5 million," Maslin said. "One of the board's concerns was making sure we could do it in a way that made sense financially for what resources our community is comfortable supporting. We were able to refinance some of our bonds from previous projects to a lower rate, pay stuff off. We kind of did some revamping of our finances to put us in a position where we could do it (the project) and manage it."

The library decided to go with the same architect who constructed the library that is located on Chestnut Street in Berea. Chris Cottongim with 5253 Design Group worked with the library board to tackle the challenge of working with little ground space.

The added community room on the lower level provides 2,600 sq. feet of versatile space that can accommodate 173 people at tables or 371 people in chairs. Also on this floor is office space for staff and a garage for the bookmobile bus.

The existing main level now includes a large, 3,234 sq. foot community room, which allows for 215 people at tables or 462 people in chairs. This room includes a small kitchenette and storage space.

Also new on the existing ground floor is quiet study rooms, more small meeting rooms that can also be used for group study, a sun/reading room and a genealogy room.

Lastly, the top floor has provided much needed office space for countywide and administrative staff and another conference room that can comfortably seat 50 people at tables or 108 people in chairs.

All of the community rooms can be booked for community board meetings and civic clubs. Maslin noted that organizations have already started to book events in the community rooms. For those interested in holding meetings or events in a community room, Maslin said to call the library and ask for her. In the next coming months, she said an online scheduling system will be set up for people to reserve rooms themselves.

One of the great things about the large community rooms is that they are all versatile and can be transformed into whatever the library — or the public — needs. As the times change, so will the spaces.

It is, after all, a palace for the people.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

CELEBRATE

To celebrate the end of construction, the Richmond branch of the Madison County Public Library will be hosting a two-day grand opening.

On Aug. 23, from noon to 2 p.m., residents can attend the formal ribbon cutting by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, a few words from elected officials and plenty of cake. Ann Crab will be in attendance playing the harp.

On Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the library will have food, fun and activities for the whole family. Maslin said to expect live music, demonstrations, face paintings and plenty more cake. She also noted there will be tours given of the new expansion by docents and to look for a person in blue vest.

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