Van Alstyne Library undergoes $17,500 facade improvement

Mary Jane Farmer, Van Alstyne Leader

What was built as and served as an appliance and variety store, now serves as the Van Alstyne Public Library. Built in 1969 as Tooley’s Appliance, the building became the library in 1992, when the city took possession and re-purposed it as the city library. It remained the same size until 2006, when, through grant, city and Friends of the Library funds, the library doubled in size. That was when the main entrance moved around its corner, its doors facing Cooper Street. They previously had, for decades, faced Waco Street.

“We have looked like a tool shed on the side of the road,” Librarian Judy Kimzey said. “And many people don’t understand we have an excellent library here. We are being judged by our cover, like books are so often judged.”

No more. Again through the mentioned funds, the library is getting a facelift, or rather a facade lift. Those original front doors are shut off, the awning and an old outside marquee are removed, and the library soon will be completely repainted.

Kimzey said that the problem wasn’t just cosmetic. The old double doors served as a fire exit, and another one has been built for both safety and compliance sake. Newcomers to the library, seeing the doors continually from Waco Street, often came through those exit-only doors. And, Kimzey said, the children there for their special activities could open the doors, “which did not age well.” Then, over the years, the hydraulics stopped working as they formerly did. In all, Kimzey said, it was a combination cosmetic, convenience, aesthetics and safety problems.

The Facade Improvement Project has not only removed those things that needed to disappear completely, like the old awning, but has also replaced the double doors with windows and a wall and relocated the fire exit to the northeast corner. Library users will note that the book drop box has also been relocated to the Cooper Street side.

But, it’s not finished yet. The Facade Improvement Project is also funded to power wash and paint the entire library exterior. The color isn’t determined yet, Kimzey said. That lipstick-and-rouge portion of the overhaul must be and will be completed by April 23.

The Facade Improvement Project is funded at $17,500, with $10,000 of that coming from the Van Alstyne Friends of the Library, $5,000 from Van Alstyne Community Development Corporation and $2,000 donated by Texas Star Bank.

“I consider this not so much as an improvement, but rather as a correction, one repairing long-standing issues,” Kimzey said. “We are trying to make the outside match the fantastic interior, match our programs, our resources. It’s time for the outside to match the inside.”

“And we are currently raising funds for ‘above and beyond,’” Kimzey added. “Landscaping, signage, artwork.”

For art, the idea is a 4-foot by 8-foot interchangeable art display to showcase local artists, school art exhibitions, historical scenes or literacy-library-related projects. The parking lot along Waco Street will remain intact, because, Kimzey said, “Our summer programs are well attended, and the parking lot will remain in place to accommodate overflow parking.”

Right now, the library is identified by a smaller, hand-painted wooded sign visible only to southbound Waco Street motorists. Funding for a new, professional sign is part of that “above and beyond” Kimzey described.

Toward those newer goals, realtor Benton Luttrell has donated $1,500, and several other merchants in the community have donated, through corporate memberships.

All donors will be acknowledged on the website, where there are also links to join or donate.

“There’s already been so much done,” Kimzey said.

The meeting room, a part of the children’s area, and the foyer have been painted. There’s a new rug added to the children’s area and organizational racks and bins have been purchased for the storage and meeting rooms.

“The library represents the heart and spirit of our community,” Kimzey said.