Just Down the Street, a World of Difference

Your Library relocated to 100 West Millard Street 21 years ago this month, officially opening on August 10, 1999. While the Library moved just down the street from its former site (on South Roan Street near Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church), the move made a world of difference.

This transition, which nearly doubled the Library’s square footage, opened a host of opportunities for growth. The move made it possible over the next 20 years to triple the size of the collection, offer community gathering spaces, add programs, and expand the staff.

Several current staff members were part of that move. We talked with them recently about what the move meant to them and how it changed the Library’s capacity to serve the public.

What were you excited about in moving to West Millard Street?

Betty (Youth Services Manager):
The new Youth Services department was amazing. The space itself was wonderful. The windows brought in light that made it so inviting and families loved the window seats. But the highlight for me was the Storytime Room. The new room was bigger, had up-to-date technology, and great acoustics.

We were also able to build the collection when we first moved in so that there were lots of new materials waiting to be checked out. Believe it or not, we still had empty shelves! I couldn’t imagine we would ever fill them up.

Cathy (Assistant Director):

The exciting part was seeing the first piece of steel placed in the ground. Up until then, it was prep work and “moving dirt around.” As soon as we had a shell of a building several of us put on hard hats and gave tours. We had the emergency exit stairwell steps finished on either side of the building, but no elevator and the grand staircase was the last big piece of the building to be completed. Having practically memorized the blueprints, I was able to give tours to board members and donors to our Capital Fund Campaign that began in 1997.

While there was a lot of excitement in moving to a great new building, there was also a lot of work! We never stopped providing library service in the old building leading up to the move. We only closed for about four weeks to get all the work done in both buildings and this was a very tight time frame. For instance, we catalogued and integrated over $100,000 worth of new books and other materials into our existing collection; otherwise, we would have opened with a lot of empty shelves.

Linda (Library Assistant, Technical Services):
I looked forward to having the windows! The Technical Services department in the old building didn’t have any windows. It also lacked the space to process and catalog large amounts of new books. The larger building meant we could expand our collection.

How did the move change what you could offer library users?

In the previous building only two people could be in the office at a time. In the new building staff members had their own cubicles and we had closet space to store program materials and decorations. We hired more staff since we now had space to accommodate them.

We were able to offer new programs since we had more space and staff. We added a teen volunteer program first, followed by more preschool storytimes and school-age programs to accommodate community interest. This growth continued with year-round programs for babies, toddlers, and parents.

What part did you play in the move?

I was the first staff member to move in so I could make sure all the pieces were in place. I did things like buy toilet paper (I have the distinction of being the first person to put toilet paper in the restrooms!) and have our new Coca-Cola machine delivered. Then there was big stuff like the electricity and the natural gas and the phone system and pest control and a new building security system, and on and on. All this had to be shut down in the old location as well as up and running in the new one. I talked with vendors on the phone and waited on hold for what seemed like hours at a time.

I had a full two-page to-do list and it served me well. I didn’t check off the last thing from my list for several months after we had opened. There was never a dull moment and the days went by very quickly. While we didn’t move very far, this was one big change of address!

What was it like to see the structure come together?

Linda: As the structure was being built, I couldn’t believe that it was going to be our library and that everyone in the community would get to enjoy it.

It was so exciting to see the structure going up. I would drive by every day and watch the construction workers add to the building. We took a staff tour once or twice to see the layout and try to picture the completed project. It was quite overwhelming, especially the “pit” that became the Storytime Room. We felt so much excitement and awe of what we were a part of, even in a small way.

It’s been inspirational to see how the Library has continued to grow over the last two decades to meet the needs of the community.

If you’re interested in learning more about your Library’s history, click here. Call (423) 434-4450, visit our website, and follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube for more information about current Library services.

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