VIRGINIA CITY – In a stone building that sits above Wallace Street, county librarian Joanne Erdall looked fruitlessly for more shelf space for new books and movies.
“We weed out all the time,” Erdall said.
Weeding out means looking for a home for books she can’t find room for in the small library. Most of the time, the weeded out books and movies go to libraries in Ennis, Sheridan or Twin Bridges. Those libraries have all had upgrades in the last decade and have more room.
But while other libraries have grown and remodeled, the Thompson-Hickman County Library in Virginia City is still in the same building it was in when it opened in 1923.
“It’s never been added to, it’s never been remodeled since it was built,” she said.
A big part of Erdall’s job is juggling space. Her library tables are filled with documents and books to catalogue. The tables in the entry way are filled with her periodical collection and when you’re typing an email on one of the five public computers, be careful not to lean back in your chair or you’ll bump into either a bookshelf or librarian’s desk.
Now Erdall and her library board are embarking on an effort to fund and build an expansion that would give them another 2,800 square feet. The new addition would have a children’s center, better handicap accessibility and a conference room.
“We’re excited about being able to bring the library into the 21st Century for the people and tourists of Madison County,” said Thompson-Hickman County Library board member Pat Bradley from Twin Bridges.
The addition will also have a basement with climate-controlled archival space for all of Madison County’s historical documents. Currently, historical county documents are stored around the county in a variety of locations, Erdall said. The addition would also give more space for the library’s own historical archives and records that were largely compiled by the late Virginia City historian Dick Pace.
The architecture work for the addition is complete and was done by architect David Grisby in Ennis. The new plan would mean a new building located behind the current structure and connected by a hallway. The design of the new addition will match the historical nature of the current stone structure, Erdall said.
The total cost of the addition will be about $650,000. Erdall is travelling around the county to talk to groups about the new addition, explaining the role of the county library and the need for more space.
Many people mistakenly believe the Thompson-Hickman County Library is the Virginia City library, she said.
The library actually serves the entire county and works very closely with the three town libraries in Ennis, Sheridan and Twin Bridges. Thompson-Hickman Library also provides a limited selection of books and movies for check out at the Pony, Cameron and McAllister post offices.
Besides the service area, the county library is also funded differently than town libraries, Erdall said.
Madison County assess three mills for libraries – 1.5 mills go to Thompson-Hickman and 1.5 mills are split between the three town libraries, which also receive separate funding from their respective communities. In the 2010/2011 budget cycle that meant the county library received about $108,000 and each of the three town libraries received about $36,000 of county tax money.
The Thompson-Hickman Library recently received a technology grant for computer and broadband upgrades, but the grant wasn’t for the expansion, she said.
On a daily basis, Erdall has about 30 patrons come into the library during the slow season, but in the summer time can see more than a 100 people a day. They come not only to check out books, but do research in the archives or work on the computers. On Fridays, the Alder School brings students in shifts to the library.
Currently, Erdall and the library board are looking toward large grants and donations to fund the expansion. For more information call the Thompson-Hickman County Library at 843-5346 or stop by and have a look for yourself. The library hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 to 5:30 and Friday from 10 to 4:30.