As several patrons moved about the Decatur Public Library after it reopened Monday morning, a man sat alone at a table near the magazine racks.
“I’ve been coming here for years, and I’ve missed it while being closed,” said John McLemore of Decatur. “I like to browse and read the magazines.”
Officials planned to close the facility for six weeks when they shut the library’s doors to the public Nov. 21 for a $470,000 improvement project.
Problems kept cropping up, and the delay reached more than three months.
“But we’re really excited about the new system,” said Library Director Sandy McCandless. “It should save us a lot of money.”
McCandless was referring to the installation of a new heating and air-conditioning system. While the system is installed and running, McCandless said, the work isn’t finished.
“They should wind it up by (today) or Wednesday,” she said. “This isn’t an ordinary system. It is a super one.”
The project also included the installation of tinted windows, new ceiling tiles, an upgraded fire alarm system, and the removal of asbestos in the basement.
McCandless said while Monday’s reopening went smoothly overall, the building still has leaks on the second floor and in the book sale room.
“We’ll have to replace some damaged roof tiles, and the city is looking into the problem,” she said.
The library also remains without the use of all 29 public computers, which went down unexpectedly Nov. 27 when a server crashed. No work could be done on the computers until they were taken out of storage last week.
“A technician from the Alabama Public Library Service came ... (last) Tuesday and worked through Thursday night,” McCandless said. “He got the staff computers back up but not the public computers.
“He took the server and one of the public computers back with him to work on this past weekend. He is still working on it. We hope to have everything up by the end of the week.”
But the soft-spoken McLemore, 73, a retired project control specialist with the Tennessee Valley Authority, is a patient man.
“I’m in here at least once a week, and sometimes I bring my computer and use it instead of theirs,” he said. “I like the tranquility of the library, where it’s always peaceful and quiet. I like the staff, which is always very helpful on anything you need.”
McLemore continued to flip the pages of a magazine as he spoke, momentarily glancing down.
“I’ve got great memories here, too,” he said. “I think about all the years I brought my grandson with me when he was small. We’d get videos for him to listen to. I’m thinking about him today. I’m always thinking about him.”
The grandson, John Parker Sington, had bacterial spinal meningitis and has been blind since birth. He celebrated his 19th birthday at his home in Pace, Fla., on the day the library reopened. He is the great-grandson of the late Alabama football legend Fred Sington Sr.
“He normally spends the summers and the holidays with us,” McLemore said. “We’ll be in here together again, later on.”
Mary Catherine “MC” Macfarlane is happy she and her daughter — Jenny, 11, a sixth-grader who is home schooled — are back in a familiar routine.
“I’ve missed the library and the times Mom and I have together every day it is open,” Jenny said. “We usually go to the All-Wright Bakery and get breakfast each morning during the week about 8:30 and then come here. I get first dibs on the books.”
Melissa Cooper, children’s librarian, welcomed eight pre-school students, including two babies, for storytime Monday.
“Even the babies paid attention, as much as a little baby can,” Cooper said. “We offered Tumblebooks, a database parents will be able to access through the library’s website here when things are up and running or they can access it from home. We’ll repeat that program today at 10 a.m.”
Patty Sipes, who has worked eight years in the library’s circulation department, said all of the patrons checking in and checking out books appeared happy with all of the accommodations.
“Most everyone told us how glad they are that we’re here again,” Sipes said. “Those just walking by let us know how pleased they are.”
Library Secretary Phyllis Roberts described the turnout Monday as “a slow steady stream. There is no mad rush, which is what we were hoping for. And people have got to get accustomed to the fact that we’re open again.”
Ronnie Thomas can be reached at 256-340-2438 or email@example.com.
City Engineer Mark Petersohn, project manager on the library job, said the contracted work totaled $452,967, which was under the city’s estimated $470,000 budget. The council also paid Decatur’s Cornerstone Engineering Group $46,979 for its engineering and consultation services for the project.
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