[Special guest post by EPL Board of Trustees member Carl Cramer]

We’re just a few weeks away from the completion of the new children’s wing and the excitement is building. Soon, the new space will be filled with children and teens reading, doing homework, and listening to Miss Sue lead storytime. In no time, it will feel as if the new wing were always a part of the library — but in fact, the journey entailed more than a decade of fits and starts…

The Emmaus Public Library was built at its Main & Ridge Street site and dedicated in June of 1966. Two expansions followed, one in the early 1980s and the other in the 1990s. The dream for a children’s literacy wing began to take shape in the early 2000s, leading to the initial land survey and the first design of the children’s wing in 2006. Efforts were soon stalled, however, by compliance issues with the 100-year floodplain shown on FEMA maps (see sidebar) and the economic crisis of 2008.

After the economic recovery and the retention of new consultants, the project resumed in 2013 with plans for a new design to comply with the 100-year floodplain designation. This renewed effort entailed obtaining an approved site development plan, creating a building design to raise the floor of the children’s wing 18 inches above the floodplain elevation, obtaining permits, and preparing construction bid documents, a multi-year process.

Last December, four primary construction bids totaling $1.18 million were awarded for the site and building, the HVAC system, plumbing and electrical systems. Additional costs for consultants and project contingencies raised the overall construction budget to $1.275 million. The cost to furnish the new wing added another $85,000.

We broke ground in February and are now nearing the finish line, thanks to a dedicated team that worked through the challenges of a harsh winter, wet summer, poor soil conditions, and connecting to a 52-year-old building–including masonry supply issues, for instance.

It was important to make the expansion look seamless alongside the original building, but getting ‘Cordova Stone’ in the right sizes to match after all that time proved to be more of a challenge than expected. As a result, the delivered stone had to be hand cut to appropriate sizes on site. That, plus a lot of rainy days, caused delays in the exterior masonry work, but the end result is worth it.

A note of thanks goes out to CMG of Easton, JBM Mechanical, Spotts Brothers, J. Membrino, Barry Isett Associates and Spillman Farmer for their efforts to create quality for our patrons every step of the way. A complex project like this – particularly connecting to and integrating systems with a much older building — expects some contingency cost on top of the base contracts for the unknowns that surface during construction. Despite that, the team brought the project in on time and below the anticipated cost due to one third of the contingency amounts not being used.

Of course, financing the new wing was a major undertaking too. With the aid of a $500,000 Keystone Grant and contributions from every corner of the community—including businesses, local organizations and foundations, the Friends of the Library, and hundreds of generous patrons—we’re glad to say the project is now fully funded, thanks to all of you!

What’s next? We’re very close to wrapping up construction and we expect the furnishings to be installed by early November. Soon after, the former children’s area will be reconfigured to include a new reading lounge, more space for the adult collection, and a book-sale area for the Friends of the Emmaus Public Library.

The library is a resource for the entire community, and we know how vital this expansion is to providing a comfortable place — both socially and educationally — for all of our members and patrons for many years to come.

The dream that began in the early 2000s has now come true through the vision, perseverance and generosity of countless people, as well as the steadfast support of the Borough of Emmaus (owner of the library building and grounds). We want to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who helped to bring this dream to fruition. We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

Please join us for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 8th, at 2 p.m. inside the library. Space is limited, so please RSVP to epldirector@cliu.org or 610-965-9284 x204.

Or join us for an open house on Wednesday, Nov. 28th, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. We would love to see you there!