DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
BURNET — The Herman Brown Free Library director Betsy Engelbrecht accepts that library staff and patrons might have to endure some inconveniences the next several months, but what’s waiting for them on the other side of that has her smiling.
“This is pretty exciting,” she said, standing outside the former office of an attorney adjacent to the library. Engelbrecht and the Friends of the Herman Free Brown Library board broke from their meeting Jan. 9 to help “break” ground on an expansion project for the library. The contractor, the architect, and Burnet County officials joined them in kicking off the $530,000 renovation project.
“We’ve been working on this for years,” said Leonard Smith, the president of the Friends group.
The group purchased the office building next to the library, which is located at 100 E. Washington St., then deeded the property over to Burnet County, which actually owns the library. The Friends group is covering the cost of the project.
The plan includes adding a new lounge area and adult internet/computer spaces at the front of the planned 20-foot-by-70-foot expansion.
“It basically adds another 33 percent to the useable space for the library,” Smith said. “Right now, if you notice, the library lounging area is right in the middle of the library.”
Engelbrecht agreed that this expansion frees up space in the library but also creates a more useable area.
“I guess the cherry on top, our kids’ area will be able to expand as well,” she said.
The director pointed out that the youth areas now sit in the middle of the main library and just off from the computer and internet area. It’s a tight fit.
Along with the lounge area and added internet/computer access, the new addition will make room for a better genealogy and historical research area. Currently, the genealogy room is crammed in a space at the front of the library.
“It’s just not big enough for all the things they are doing in there,” Smith said.
The renovation will create the Elizabeth Van Gorkom Genealogy Research Center in the back portion of the expansion area. Elizabeth Van Gorkom, a library volunteer, provided the funds for the genealogy program in her will.
“There are a lot more people interested in genealogical and historic research,” Smith said. “We think this (new center) will even draw more people to the library.”
Officials believe construction on the new addition will start in the next two weeks and take about 170 days to complete.
“We know it will mean some things we’ll have to deal with, but, hopefully, the downtime will be minimal,” Engelbrecht said. “But this will be a good thing, definitely a good thing.”
Smith said the Friends group receives support through the community and the Burnet County Library Thrift Store, 105 E. Pecan St. in Burnet.
Go to hermanbrownlibrary.org for more information.