The small city of Loogootee will triple the size of its library using a more than $1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The funding focuses on improving facilities in rural communities, and Loogootee is the first city to use it for a library.
The current building is only 3,000 square feet and used to house a restaurant.
“So occasionally we still get people who come in and we ask ‘Can I help you?’ And they say ‘we want a beer and a steak.'” says Library Director Darla Wagler.
Because the space wasn’t built to be a library, there are several challenges. There aren’t many places to sit, so special programs have to happen elsewhere. And, there’s not even enough room to display the entire collection.
Mayor Noel Harty says, on top of that, there’s a huge increase in demand for the library’s services.
“I mean the library’s used more now than it ever has been in the whole history of it being founded,” he says.
Ten years ago the library offered eight programs a year. Last year they offered nearly 300.
The city previously tried to fund a new library through a $1.3 million bond, but voters turned the idea down.
Library Director Darla Wagler says the USDA loan makes the project doable. Traditional loans have much shorter lending periods.
“With the USDA loan this stretches out 40 years, so that lowers your payments and makes it more affordable,” she says.
The new facility will include additional meeting spaces, as well as a dedicated office for Work One. It will be located on an empty lot next to the St. Vincent de Paul store on Park street, which the organization donated.
The library is hosting a “Pull up a chair” fundraiser to try and come up with $200,000 toward the loan. Community members decorate wooden chairs, which the library will then auction off this fall.
The city hopes to break ground on the new building by October. Construction will take about nine months.