Sprague library celebrates facelift

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Sprague - posted Tue., Sep. 20, 2011
The Sprague Public Library has reopened following an extensive interior renovation project.
The Sprague Public Library has reopened following an extensive interior renovation project.

The Sprague Public Library is open for business and planning a Sept. 30 wine and cheese reception to celebrate its extensive summer-long makeover. The library, located in a historic structure that originally housed a gristmill, closed at the end of June to allow workers to remedy a wide range of ills.

“Some of our windows were falling out,” said library director Chris Kolar. “Our lighting was falling down… we had no storage.” There was no fire alarm or sprinkler system, either. When workers attempted to move existing bookcases, cobbled together by a local woodworker years ago, they came apart, she said.

The library’s facelift included the installation of new bookcases, light fixtures, windows and carpeting. Interior walls were also given a fresh coat of paint. An elevator was installed in the back to make the upper-floor museum, now home to the Sprague Historical Society, handicapped-accessible. A fire alarm and sprinkler system was also installed, and wiring that had previously been encased in pipes that ran along the building’s exterior walls were re-installed to meet code.

The results are already evident: a much brighter, more inviting interior space for patrons of all ages. For younger patrons, the library acquired a playhouse and a sand and water table. Teens have a corner of their own, replete with futuristic café-style stools and tables.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Sprague First Selectman Catherine Osten. She said that funding for the project came out of grant funds from Connecticut Historic Preservation, the Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Work on the gristmill, housed in the structure’s upper floor, revealed some surprises, said Osten. “We found the original red pine flooring under two layers [of other flooring],” she said. “All the gears for the gristmill are still in the ceiling.” Kolar added that the renovation project also produced a number of the original seed grains that had been brought to the mill for processing. “They had to have been here for 150 years,” she said. The seeds will be preserved in acrylic for display in the gristmill museum upstairs, along with pictures and other artifacts.

Kolar, who came on board as director in June, just before the library closed, said that the improvements are already drawing more visitors. “We probably had 20 new library cards go out in the past week,” she said Sept. 15. “Last night the place was really full. [Patrons] were on the computer, looking for books, doing research and homework.”

The library has extended its hours to include Monday, so that now it is open daily except for Friday and Sunday, Kolar said. Hours are 2-7 p.m., Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday.

The wine and cheese reception, which runs from 6:30-9 p.m., will benefit the library and will feature local wines and other concoctions, along with cheeses and appetizers donated by local businesses. Sprague’s Garden Club will create floral decorations, and a local pianist will provide music, said Kolar. “A lot of people are donating to help out,” she said. “There’s a really nice community spirit.”

The gristmill museum will be open during the reception, Kolar said. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased at Town Hall or at the library.

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