In the early 1900s, Stoughton residents staged home talent shows and cooked 15-cent baked bean suppers to raise money for a library, one to be partially funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Dedicated in 1908, Stoughton’s “Carnegie” library remains today, albeit with a significant expansion added a little more than 20 years ago. Now library officials say the addition is badly in need of an upgrade, so Stoughton residents are taking to fundraising again. A kickoff event is set for Jan. 30.

“Like most of the public libraries around, our usage is going up, both in the number of people checking things out and the number of people walking through our doors,” said Richard MacDonald, library director.

All told, the renovations are expected to cost about $650,000, of which the city of Stoughton has pledged $410,000, said Dave Mannis of Stoughton, a retired sales manager for a paper company who is helping with the fundraising effort. The library is looking to raise about $250,000 so that there's a bit of a buffer for cost overruns, he said.

“I definitely think that’s doable,” Mannis said. Though near Madison, Stoughton prides itself on providing everything a resident could need within the city, including a high-quality library, he added.

The single costliest element of the renovation probably will be steel shelving, MacDonald said. The original shelving in the addition was made of particle board and is literally falling apart, he said. City workers have had to shore it up with braces and brackets.

Carpeting, lighting and furnishings also need to be replaced, as does the boiler and the control system for the heating and ventilation system, MacDonald said. The main entrance is scheduled for a makeover, and the restrooms on the main floor will be updated to align with current handicapped-accessible guidelines.

An overarching goal of the renovation is to make it more user-friendly, and that means larger meeting rooms, MacDonald said. The library offers free Wi-Fi service, and an increasing number of patrons come to the library to work or read on their electronic devices or to meet in groups while working on their laptops, he said.

Although the footprint of the building will not change, the library will gain a little bit of usable square footage by filling in two areas that currently are open space, MacDonald said. The library expects to spend most of 2014 raising the needed funds, with work probably not starting until 2015, he said.

Doug Erickson covers K-12 education and religion for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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