On Tuesday, May 16th, the Sparta Free Library broke ground on their expansion project. At 4 p.m. on the dot, there were around 84 attendees listening, as Library Director, Michelle Tryggestad, took the microphone and welcomed everyone to the groundbreaking, kickoff celebration. A slow-rolling-casual-camera visual caught Friends of the Library flocked together, City of Sparta Mayor - Kevin Riley - readying his speech, the anxious Architects, several news media outlets – complete with cameras and microphones, City Treasurer - Mark Sund and Development Director - Todd Fahning, Reinhard Mueller from the Library Board, and many more. The weather cooperated, allowing for the expansion emergence to officially unravel and get underway, with a top-tier commencement.
Library Director, Michelle Tryggestad, was all smiles at the groundbreaking event, for the Sparta Free Library. When asked by the Herald what this day meant to her, Director Tryggestad replied, “I really am thinking more in line with how great this is for the community. Here they have this 1902 building that they took care of, adding onto it in 1982, took care of that portion, and here we are, ready to do the next stage of expansion and remodeling. We will be adding on some much-needed spaces that the community has asked for. I am thrilled that we are at this point.”
On the efforts of the Friends of the Library/volunteers and supporters, Michelle stated, “Our Library Board, our Friends of the Library group … they have just been phenomenal people, to get out there and knock-on doors, calling people that they know, such as friends and family; reaching out to former graduates and getting those donors. It has been a huge undertaking. All credit to them, for stepping up and I think there was surprise in the community that they were able to raise as much as they have, in a short amount of time. We are still not done. There are donor possibilities available, but we are feeling good.”
Emotions sneak in
After the outside ceremony had concluded, with the golden-shovel photos etched on a memory card, and everyone dissipating into the mist of the memory, the scene turned inside, for refreshments and miniature discussions on topics spanning the expansion to the weather fluctuation, so far, this year. “I have a really good staff,” Tryggestad said, taking a sidebar, to chat with the Herald. “They just stepped up and did what was needed, and continue to do so,” Michelle said.
Then there was a pause in her calm and flowing demeanor; it was realization sneaking in — when the breadth of all that has happened: the hurdles; the time, exhaustive efforts, the mountain of kind and supportive energies, takes over the linear plane. “I said I wasn’t going to get emotional … They all came through for the patrons. They know and love and live and breathe Library. This is them … wholly attributed to them.”
The current Mayor
Mayor Kevin Riley told the Herald, “When I was asked by the paper, 14 years ago, ‘Why are you running for city council and what do you want to accomplish? The two things I mentioned were that the Sparta Swimming Pool needed to be refurbished and the library needed updating. So, for me personally, this is like putting a period on what my original thoughts were, 15 years ago.”
Mayor Riley went on to say, “I feel really good about the library and the direction of the city.” When asked by the Herald if he meant to say exclamation point, instead of period, on the day’s significance, Mayor Riley stated that he intends to do a lot more, so a period is good, or maybe a semicolon.
On what may be on his agenda next, Mayor Riley stated “If you look down there [alley behind the Farmers Market], you see that beautiful bridge. We will have a beautiful library here, in about a year, so the potential is there for further beautification. How we get it done; funding … that’s always the $64,000 question. One of the things I am pushing for, is the beautification of Sparta. A little money could go a long way because we would not be building anything, just improving and beautifying.”
The Former Mayor, Ron Button
Former Mayor, Ron Button, was the mayor that brought forth the original need for a library expansion. He was a former library committee member and frequent user of the library, as a child. He had the foresight to see the need for future expansion. “I have been a supporter of the library my whole life,” Button stated. “I was on the Library Board for quite a while, when I was a councilman, and I certainly supported it when I was Mayor. I helped negotiate the agreement, to have the city fund the library, which the council broke this spring. That kind of broke my word for me and I wasn’t really happy about that, but I am very happy it is getting started.”
Button has been along for the entire journey, with the expansion project. He shared some of his memorable milestones with the Herald. “I knew [from the beginning] it was going to come, there were just a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. I am glad the controversy over abandoning the front door was resolved a couple years ago because those doors were quite expensive and treasured by anyone that uses or has ever used the library.”
Former Mayor Button went on to say, “This has been a controversial subject, ever since we bought Ray’s Super Market. It’s been a great parking lot for us, but it will be an even better library.”
Library Director Michelle Tryggestad thanked Ron for all that he did, then they posed with the golden shovels and hardhats. Michelle said that she was very anxious to get the project started, so she wanted to actually start digging, during the photo.
Blue Ribbon Mayor
Mayor Kristen Gust kept the library expansion idea alive and shortly after COVID, appointed a "Blue Ribbon Committee," to guide the expansion and addition of the library. On that committee was future mayor Kevin Riley, who is a strong supporter and believer of the need for the expansion.
Before scampering off to the next story, the Herald asked Director Tryggestad for a reminder on the path the library-journey expansion will take now. “Next week, digging will begin in our East lot. We will fence off the parking lot on Thursday [today]. The digging will begin next week,” she explained.
“From there, they will build the new portion of the library, and about halfway through we will be moving from the existing facility into that new space, trying to maintain services throughout. Then they will come in here and remodel, then we will reconfigure. It is quite an undertaking.”
When asked if there was a hurry to get certain stages completed before winter, Michelle said, “We are definitely hoping for that new expansion portion to be up and sealed [by winter], and then we will be good,” she said, with a bit of laughter escaping. “Then it will all be interior work and that can be completed in the colder weather.”
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