A year ago, space was at a premium for the Arma City Library.
“We were out of space for books,” said library director Brenda Banks. “It was just so small.”
She said only one person could be behind the circulation desk at a time and the overall arrangement presented a challenge.
“Probably in July I went back to the city council and told them we were outgrowing the library,” Banks said.
The space hadn’t always been the library, according to Arma Mayor Buddy Bualle.
“At one time, Craw-Kan had this as a call center,” he said, adding that that was before changes were made to telemarketing policies.
When Craw-Kan shut down that site, the city acquired the building.
“The City of Arma bought the building and made it into a community center,” Bualle said.
He said the library was in another location on the edge of town at that time, and then the decision was made to bring the library into town and walls were built in the middle of the community center.
“The community center was used less and less and the library was growing,” Bualle said.
When Banks expressed her concern, the city got to work in short order.
“Last winter, when they couldn’t work outside, the city guys were in here,” Bualle said.
Banks said the city employees began work on the community center side of the building in December and transformed what had been the kitchen into an area for movies and games.
Other renovations followed throughout the winter months, with many items being repurposed in the transition.
“One of the cool things about it was we were able to repurpose all the doors and windows,” Banks said.
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She said many of the materials were reused and the city employees were able to take on the electrical and other jobs, keeping costs way down.
In line with the repurposed theme, Banks also opted to decorate with materials such as gutter guards, sheet metal and corrugated tin.
“I wanted an industrial steampunk feel with the repurposing,” she said.
Her decorations, along with others acquired at garage sales or made by individuals, come together with a hip, funky feel that is attractive for patrons of all ages.
“I wanted it to be edgy,” Banks said.
Throughout the process, she was very aware of costs, because she didn’t have a redecorating budget for the project.
However, she said she did have a furnishings grant from the Southeast Kansas Library System which, combined with efforts by Pittsburg State University in building bookshelves and the City of Arma for other work, went a long way.
“She’s been the main imputes here,” Bualle said of Banks’ creativity.
He added that the changes did eliminate the community center, but that other facilities are able to pick up some of that need.
“It leaves us without a community center, but gives us a fantastic library,” Bualle said.
And in some ways the expanded library picks up some of the old community center function through displays of old community photographs, composites and artifacts and through a more hospitable space.
“It’s been fabulous,” Banks said. “I actually have people come in and sit down and get coffee.”
She said the facility offers numerous spaces, including a teen room where youth play games, the community garden, a maker room for sewing and projects, a wi-fi room and numerous sitting spaces.