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‘On the cutting edge of technology’

Story and photos by Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com

Longtime Fallon resident Pat Bowden attended the opening ceremony for the library when it first opened its doors in 1967 at the corner of South Maine and Virginia streets.

As with the current repurposing project, the library was built to replace a smaller building and become more in tune with life’s current trends.

“At the time a lot of people didn’t want us to build it,” she said of the original library and the additional taxes that accompanied it. The citizens voted against it.”

Instead, the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation donated money for the project, while the Churchill County Commission provided $18,000 and a lot.

“We were so happy to get out of the old library,” she said. “It was wonderful to have a place big enough and a place for people to sit down and read the newspaper.”

As the years progressed, the library added more shelving and racks, causing the middle of the floor to be jammed with books and videocassettes.

Now with repurposing, Bowden said the library still serves a purpose.

“I am surprised with all the technology,” she said at Saturday’s ribbon cutting.

And as with the original library when it first opened, Bowden said she likes the wide-open spaces and the brightness of the repurposed library, which has served Fallon and the county for almost half a century from the same site.

Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford paused near the main door and looked around the newly repurposed Churchill County Library during a Friday night reception for city and county officials and friends of the library.

“This is great,” Tedford said of the $450,000 project that took four months to complete. “It’s bright and cheery and modern. It’s very open, and it looks like the children section is larger.”

What Tedford and about 50 others saw was a brand new library repurposed to meet the 21st century.

“I think it’s wonderful, a great improvement for our community,” he said.

Library Director Carol Lloyd agreed with the mayor’s assessment

“This building is open to house a growing collection and meet the community needs,” she said.

Former high-school English teacher Rachel Dahl, now executive director of the Churchill Economic Development Agency, said she has many memories of the Churchill County Library.

“It keeps our history, provided entertainment and increases our imagination,” Dahl said.

As the CEDA director, Dahl said when she visits communities similar to Fallon, one of her first stops is at the town’s library.

“Our library is on par with the others,” she added.

Since CEDA, the Fallon Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fallon are focused on revitalizing downtown, Dahl said the library’s repurposing is important to that project.

Councilman Bob Erickson said the city council is a strong supporter of the library.

“We feel the library is a core part of our downtown,” he said. “Libraries go back in our nation’s history.”

When his son attended Churchill County schools, Erickson said the family came to the library once or twice a week. For the Ericksons, the library became part of their lives.

Adult Services Librarian Diane Wargo has been with the library for 20 years.

“It’s like an anniversary present,” she said with a smile. “It’s clean, it’s open, it’s easier for us to help people.”

Wargo said her favorite part of repurposing is how workers stripped the paint off the beams and restored them to their natural color.

“It’s like being in a cathedral,” she laughed. “I think the public is going to like this.”

Western Nevada College Fallon Librarian Ron Belbin said the country library is flexible with its space in accommodating patrons. In fact, Belbin said the Fallon campus is also opening up its library and reducing its book collection by sending many of them to the Carson City campus.

Belbin said an academic library is more of a knowledge center as it engages more people who use the services.

County Commissioner Bus Scharmann, retired WNC Fallon dean, said the Churchill County Library has transitioned to the 21st century.

“It was a big decision to the library board to use the money now or wait,” he said.

Instead of expanding the library, the board decided to repurpose since many of the services are now available on websites or computers.

Erickson agreed.

“The new library is on the cutting edge of technology,” he said.

Scharmann said older books were weeded out, and the children’s section was moved the front to the back. He also liked the designated areas for quiet reading.