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The Friends of the Jackson County Main Library have completed their remarkable effort to raise $1.6 million to outfit the interior of the new library under construction on courthouse hill in Sylva.

The Friends announced this week that a $200,000 grant from federal stimulus money given out by the U.S Rural Development Program had pushed them over the finish line. The Fontana Regional Library system applied for the grant on behalf of the Jackson library project.

Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the capital campaign, credited the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of hundreds of donors for the campaign’s success. The grassroots fundraising campaign began in May 2008.

The Jackson County Public Library Complex is a $7 million project to renovate the 1914 Jackson County Courthouse for community uses and build a 20,000-square-foot addition on the back to serve as a new library. It is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2011.

“This grassroots campaign has been successful because hundreds of individuals, foundations and companies have shown their support through various levels of giving,” Selzer said. “Children have brought in their piggy banks; patrons have joined the Wall of Fame at the library; many young readers, through the Books for Bricks summer reading program, raised over $6,300; merchants have donation boxes on the counters in their businesses; companies wrote generous checks; and grantors have been charitable in providing funds.”

Of the total $1.6 million, about $1.15 million came in the form of large grants from institutions, charities and organizations.

Dr. John Bunn of Sylva, co-chair of the fundraising committee, said the iconic nature of the courthouse that’s even visible when passing Sylva on the highway made it possible to raise money for the project during a recession.

“You’d be talking to a foundation somewhere away from here and they’d say ‘I’ve seen that courthouse!’” Bunn said.

Bunn said the successful fundraising drive allowed for the addition of special features, like the outdoor reading patio that will rival the famous sunset patio at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

“They’ll have to eat their hearts out,” Bunn said.

He said the new library and courthouse restoration will be a point of pride for the community.

“If you had guests from out of town you normally wouldn’t say ‘Let me show you our library,’” Bunn said. But Jackson County will be an exception.

— By Giles Morris and Becky Johnson

The Jackson County Courthouse, Sylva’s most distinctive building, was built in a rush.

C.J. Harris, a prominent industrialist and wealthy Sylva businessman, bankrolled the $50,000 project in 1914 in return for the county seat being moved from Webster to Sylva. Harris had it modeled after the Madison County Courthouse and got it built in a year.

Transforming the historic building into a community space and anchor for a new county library has taken considerably longer. After a decade of debate, a year of planning and another year of building, the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library hosted a tour of the construction site last week to showcase the progress.

“We’re combining something that’s very historic with something that’s brand new,” said Betty Screven, a volunteer with Friends of the Library. “While it’s going to be modern in its technique, it will be historic in feel.”

Construction Manager David Cates of Canton-based Brantley Construction said the project will likely miss its December target for an opening date as a result of poor weather and complications with restoring the courthouse cupola.

“Our first 90 days of the project, we had 62 days of measurable rainfall,” Cates said. “We’ve worked around our elbow to get to our foot to get construction completed.”

Cates said the project will finish in the early part of 2011, but the tour showed that all the elements of what will be a regional showpiece are in place.

“This isn’t just going to be great for the people of Jackson County. It’s going to be great for Western North Carolina,” Screven said.

Architect Donnie Moore and interior designer Lynne Wilson of Macmillan, Pazdan & Smith have pored over historic records to revive the feel of the Jackson County Courthouse in its original state. The building was gutted during a renovation in the ‘70s and almost no original features remain. Love and Wilson used the Madison County Courthouse, which has kept its original character, as their model.

The new complex will feature three separate architectural spaces unified by recurring design elements. The old courthouse will be converted into a community space that will house the county’s historical and genealogical societies, the arts’ council, and catering kitchen. The historic courtroom itself will be renovated as an auditorium complete with vintage theater seats that will double as a community meeting room.

A giant addition will be built to the rear to house the new library. A glass atrium will connect the two and serve as the entrance to the complex. The atrium is to carry the name of the State Employees Credit Union Foundation in gratitude for their $250,000 grant.

The two-story rectangular library addition will be open to the ceiling in the center, showing off stunning stained glass skylights.

To offer some sense of the upgrade the new building represents, its children’s section will be larger than the entire current library. While the current library is drab-colored and lit by fluorescent light, the teen reading area on the second floor of the new library will feature a funky purple and orange design scheme, coffee shop booths, and a view of the Plott Balsams.

Jackson County Librarian Dottie Brunette, was inspired to become a librarian by her mother, Ada Moody Brunette, and by long-time county librarian Sadie Luck. Brunette said touring the construction site left her awe-struck.

“My mother, who’s the reason I’m a librarian, is hugging herself somewhere,” Brunette said.

 

Fundraising nears home stretch

The Friends of the Library is 90 percent of the way to its fundraising goal of $1.6 million to furnish and outfit the library.

As of last week, donations and pledges totaled over $1,440,535.

“It’s been a very grassroots effort, and the community has responded,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the committee that led the effort.

Donations to the capital campaign fund may be made at the Jackson County Public Library in downtown Sylva, Friends of the Library Bookstore at 536 West Main Street, through the Friends website fojcml.org, or mailed to Friends of the Jackson County Main Library, P. O. Box 825, Sylva, 28779-0825.

The construction of the new Jackson County Main Library has been a community-driven project all along, and last week the community got its first glimpse of what the interior will look like.

Friends of the Jackson County Main Library held an open house at the old library to showcase the work of Lynne Wilson, the interior designer from Macmillan, Pazdan & Smith in charge of decorating both the historic courthouse and the attached library building.

Betty Screven of Friends of the Library said the event was a chance to share almost two years of work planning the library’s interior.

“We’re already picking out individual elements, and we wanted the public to be able to touch the carpet, to feel the fabrics, and really get excited about his new library,” Screven said. “This whole process has been finding out what the people of Jackson County want in their library, and this is the culmination of that.”

The Friends have raised $1,425,000 to outfit the interior of the building, and they’ve also worked hand in hand with Wilson to come up with a plan for the interior design.

“Lynne has come up with ideas and passed them by groups of people, and there’s been real discussion,” Screven said.

Wilson won a South Carolina historic preservation award for her work restoring an old firehouse in Newburg, and she has teamed with architect Donnie Love on a series of historic renovation projects. Those experiences, she said, have prepared her for the challenge of integrating the old Jackson County Courthouse with the newly constructed library building.

“The main thing was we wanted to keep the integrity of the existing courthouse, and we’re using a lot of those design motifs in the new part of the building,” Wilson said.

For example, the fretwork around the dome of the 1914 courthouse will be repeated in the patterns in the artisan metalwork railings on the second floor of the new building.

“The most fun part for me has been getting the input from the Friends of the Library and the community,” Wilson said. “It makes it easier to get the concepts right from the beginning when you have so many people who are so committed.”

The two spaces, old and new, are to be bridged by a glass atrium lobby that will incorporate the terraza floors and historic reproduction lighting fixtures that characterized the original courthouse.

The library will have a color scheme based in green that incorporates historic colors like the gold-hued Hubbard squash tone that is a favorite of Wilson and Love’s. The architectural showpieces of the new building are without question the stained-glass skylights that will adorn the ceiling of the new building, but the interior design showpieces will be the ornately decorated service desks that will incorporate the work of local artists.

“We were trying to think of ways to incorporate the local talent we have, but we didn’t want to fill the building with a permanent collection,” Screven said. “We thought the service desks would be perfect.”

Artists like Smoky Mountain High School’s Dylan Llassiah and local muralist Doreyl Ammons Cain submitted work for consideration by Wilson and her staff. Llassiah’s tiles representing the seven clans of the Cherokee and Ammons’ 16-by-8-foot heritage mural were two of the projects selected for posterity.

The 26,000-square-foot renovation and construction project has been a massive undertaking, but with the design team already picking out furniture for the building, Jackson County residents can be sure their new library is nearly a reality.

To learn more about the project, visit www.fojcml.org/new-library.html.

In today’s economy, people want to stretch their dollars to the max. What if you could actually double your money? Many in Jackson County are doing just that by contributing to the new Jackson County Public Library building fund at a crucial point in the campaign.

“We are drawing close to 90 percent of our $1.6 million goal and have an unprecedented opportunity,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the campaign. “Through individual community members’ donations, we have matched over $185,000 of the $250,000 SECU Foundation grant. The next $65,000 raised will be matched by the Foundation. As has been true throughout the campaign, every dollar counts, but at this point, every dollar counts as two.”

No one realizes the importance of each contribution any more than Michelle Allison, office manager of JCPL. It was her awareness of the impact each dollar can make that inspired her and other employees at the library to create the Wall of Fame.

“We were talking about how we could bring attention to the campaign here in the library, and I thought of a Wall of Fame,” Allison said. “With each contribution someone makes at the library, we give the donor a certificate to post on our walls. We want to fill up all the walls with the certificates.”

“We put a jar on the desk and when people come up, we explain that everyone who puts a contribution in gets a certificate to go on the wall. We’ve gotten donations from a few cents on up.”

According to Dottie Brunette, head librarian, the response has been gratifying. “We really mean it when we say that every dollar counts,” she said. “We’ve had small children come in and contribute their allowances to the building fund, and it’s been so nice to see the pride they have when they mount their certificate on the wall. We’ve had strangers drop in to ask directions to Waynesville or Asheville, see our information about the Wall of Fame, and say, ‘Here, I’ll contribute.’ We’ve had contributions from a dollar and up, and it’s obvious to us that each and every one is from the heart. We really feel so supported by the community through this campaign.”

Of course the Wall of Fame isn’t the only way to contribute. Contributions can be made in person at the Friends of the Library Used Book Store, also on Main Street in Sylva, or mailed to: Friends of the Library, P.O. Box 825, Sylva, N.C., 28779-0825.

For more information call Mary Otto Selzer at 828.293.0074 or 828.507.0476 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fundraising for the new Jackson County library may have entered the home stretch, but is far from home free.

Friends of the Library is only $250,000 away from its $1.6 million goal. But the final leg will prove the toughest, longest and hardest yet.

The library fundraising committee has spent most of the past year going after big dollars and large grants from corporate sponsors and foundations. The fundraising will now enter what’s known as the public phase: eking out $50 and $100 checks from the general public to raise most of the remainder.

“This library complex belongs to all the people of Jackson County, and we need the citizens to support the project financially,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the capital campaign committee formed under Friends of the Library. “Everybody’s circumstances are different, but if people will give whatever they can afford, we will reach our goal.”

In coming weeks, the public will start to see cardboard banks shaped like books on the counters of local businesses throughout the county where people can drop their spare bills and checks.

The fundraising committee got welcome news last week. The campaign was still half a million short when word came through of a major windfall: a $250,000 grant from the N.C. State Employee’s Credit Union. It comes with a caveat that the community must match the money.

“We can say to the people of Jackson County for every dollar you give, it means two dollars for your library. That is a powerful thing in fundraising,” said Dr. John Bunn, co-chair of the capital campaign.

The challenge grant provides a needed push to carry the campaign across the finish line.

“The $250,000 challenge grant from SECU is a strong incentive for our community to reach the $1.6 million we need to complete the new library complex,” said June Smith, president of the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library.

The library is scheduled to open in December 2010. Construction, including the courthouse renovation, is estimated at $7.9 million and is being covered by the county. The furnishings, fixtures and equipment for the library were left up to the fundraising campaign.

Bunn hopes the final dollar will be raised by next spring.

“I think the people of Jackson County will respond,” Bunn said. “When you give to this, you have made a gift to something that will keep on giving to generations.”

Bunn said there was skepticism in the early stages of the campaign when a $1.6 million goal was looming ahead of them.

“They told us it was impossible,” Bunn said.

Bunn credits the concept of the library itself as the main driver in the fundraising success.

“This is the kind of thing that brings a new quality of life for all of the people here,” Bunn said.

Those courting donors had another major selling point up their sleeve. The new library is being constructed alongside the famous historic courthouse, which is being restored and renovated in tandem with the library project.

“That just clinched it,” Bunn said.

The library’s main entrance, atrium and courtyard — features that connect the library complex with the historic courthouse — will be named for the State Employees Credit Union.

Bunn said the new library and courthouse restoration will be a point of pride for the community.

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