11/04/08 — Fremont library branch set to reopen in early December

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Fremont library branch set to reopen in early December

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 4, 2008 1:46 PM


Jamie Cassady, of Lenier Construction, works inside the new Fremont Library. The new structure, which was financed in part by a community-based effort to keep the branch open, will be ready for patrons sometime in early December.

FREMONT -- More than a year after hearing the county library system was considering closing their town's branch, Fremont residents are about 30 days away from seeing the library they saved.

The newly renovated public library might be ready to reopen in early December, say members of the Friends of the Library.

The community effort successfully raised enough money to pay for renovations of the building, and after months of preparations and work, officials said the project is near completion.

Once the project reached the construction stage, it hit a snag. No contractor was willing to take on the job.

Steve Knotts, head of the Friends of the Library, said Sam Sasser, a local construction manager, helped push the project with architectural drawings and solicitation of firms to do the work. Sasser also is serving as the project manager.

Officials with the Wayne County Public Library system announced in March 2007 that they planned to close the branch. The system has plans to build a central library branch in the northern part of the county. But Fremont residents said they wanted to keep their own library.

It was not just about having their own library, Knotts said. It was about protecting their town.

"That was our purpose in taking this on. It was more than just keeping the library open," he said. "It was actually keeping Fremont more of a vibrant community, not letting it dry up and go away. You start losing these things, and you start becoming less attractive for people moving into the community."

Knotts said Sasser's help was instrumental in obtaining a contractor to do the work.

"What I kept getting from the people I talked with, it was either too small of a job or too big of a job," Knotts said. "You have contractors that like to come in, and maybe do a room, and then you have your larger contractors who do whole houses and commercial buildings. We just kind of fell in between."

The work is being done by Robert Lanier of Dudley.

New furnishings were purchased from North Carolina state surplus -- leftovers from a closed-down military base, Knotts said.

"I got a great deal on library furniture. It just so happened that they got a tractor-trailer load of library furniture. (It looks) practically new, so we made out really well on that."

It was a fortunate thing for the library project that Knotts stumbled upon the deal, he said -- a lighting specialist told them their current illumination plans were inadequate.

"We had a lighting consultant come in and tell us ... statistically what libraries should look like as far as lumens per square foot. We needed to have twice as much lighting as what we had planned."

Library Director Jane Rustin said the library will still have to review the furniture to make sure it meets proper standards.

The additional lighting costs could have put the project well over its budget of $50,000.

But with the furniture savings and plans for a small purchase of new books after the library opens, the cost will be $56,000, a few thousand over budget, Knotts said.

Other features will include a conference room -- new for the Fremont library facility -- which can hold as many as 60 people, Knotts said.

Ms. Rustin praised the Friends of the Fremont Library's efforts to keep their branch open temporarily.

"It's wonderful," she said.

The library will also provide computer access, as it had before, and patrons will now be able to bring in laptops to access a wireless Internet connection.

Knotts said although Fremont's library branch, which was the smallest of the five branches as measured in 2005, will initially have about the same number of books and other materials to lend.

But new library practices might help, he said.

"(The Wayne County Public Library System does) books on a rotation," Knotts said. "It's like you're 'renting' books. So that way you can refresh your collection periodically. We hope to see a lot more of that when we move back in."