With the largest expansion project in decades well under way, it's a time for full boxes and empty shelves at the Neosho-Newton County Library.

With the largest expansion project in decades well under way, it's a time for full boxes and empty shelves at the Neosho-Newton County Library.  
Since the groundbreaking last August, the project has been on and even ahead of schedule.  Neosho residents who have visited or driven past the library can view the addition. The exterior walls have been up for a long time but the interior changes are fast becoming evident.
As the library prepares to be close from Thursday, Feb. 8 through Feb. 28, most of the non-fiction books have been boxed for storage and the shelves are empty. According to Neosho-Newton County Library Director Carrie Cline, the old shelves, which were purchased as Army surplus, won't stay.
"If anyone is interested, let us know," Cline said. "These shelves are so sturdy, I think you could drive a car over them."
Replacement shelves were purchased at a bargain price from the Joplin Public Library, who moved into a new facility last year.
"We're doing this on a budget," Cline stated. "We're not loaded."
The choice to remain in the former Jeffers Motors building, now more than a century old, was deliberate.
"Everyone loves this building," she said."It was built in 1917, for the Jeffers Motor Company, and people love it. They remember buying their first car here. I'm glad we are here and we'll stay here."
The Neosho-Newton County Library moved into the facility from their former longtime location on South Jefferson Street in 1995.  With the central location near the historic Neosho Square and across from the Neosho Farmer's Market in season, it's easily accessible by area residents.
When complete, the addition will more than double the library space, from the current 9,000 square feet by an additional 9,500 square feet. The genealogy department, the young adult and children's areas, and a community room will all be housed in the expansion area. New public restrooms are also part of a community storm shelter, something the library is pleased that they will have available for patrons.
The floor plan will be open when the project is finished, with the "old" portion of the library transformed as well. The adult fiction and non-fiction collections, periodicals and magazines, DVDs and CD's will all be found in the original space along with a new circulation desk. Computers will also be available for use.
"We're going to have some adult study rooms," Cline said. "People can check them out to use for group study projects. They will be in our new area."
There will also be an adult quiet reading room, located where the current children's section has been housed. In addition to tables and chairs for seating, the oversize books, biographies and reference books will be in the adult reading room.
New staff offices are also part of the expansion and these are taking shape on the northeast corner of the building. For now, until the library temporarily closes, the staff is working in a area facing the north wall and windows, overlooking Spring Street.  The current circulation desk has been sold to another library and a new desk will be used.
"We're so excited about it (the expansion)," Cline said. "It's going to be spacious and intimate, at the same time."
A new color scheme will be used throughout the facility utilizing earth tones that compliment one another, including some blues and grays. Fresh paint, new flooring, and lighting will all enhance the old as well as the new.
"It will be different," Cline said. "You will notice the changes."
Since the library will be closed during most of February, Cline is encouraging patrons to check out as many books as they need for the duration.
"I don't want anyone to run out of reading material," she said. "We have extended check-out dates, into March, right now and they can also always renew a book they've checked out on line."
Library patrons who utilize the Overdrive system through Missouri State Libraries and the Neosho-Newton County Library to check out electronic materials will continue to be able to use it throughout the expansion process.
When the library re-opens on March 1, the new portion will be open and the current section will be closed as the transition continues. The library will close a second time before the complete facility re-opens this spring.
"We're ahead of schedule," Cline said. "We've had a few minor snafus but nothing major. The construction guys have been troupers. They've worked despite the weather, even those days when it was so cold with snow and sleet falling."
April is the target date for the library project to be complete.
One of Cline's favorite features is the community room, a spacious area that will have a kitchenette and can be utilized for both library projects and community events.
"This is my pride and joy," she said, as the room moves closer to completion. "There will be a tech wall along the back, where anyone presenting programs can use a variety of technology."
A lack of space has made some of the library's ongoing programs including Story Time for the younger children and Teen Time for junior high and high school students a challenge. If necessary, these events can move into the community room. So can the popular adult series focusing on local history.
Although the public has been patient through the construction phase, there have been relatively few complaints and Cline is certain once the project is complete, the public will be pleased.
"Our traffic has fallen off a little during construction," she stated. "We've had some parking issues because sometimes the construction guys have had to use the space and I think some people drive on past because of it. But once we're reopen, we're going to be busy and I love it."
The library is often very busy as people of all ages utilize the facility for a variety of uses, ranging from reading to computers and more.
"The staff has been great," Cline said. "They have been real troupers. So has Teen Challenge. We've had them to help with the moving so far and we will be using them throughout the process."
One feature that will remain is the mural painted by Duard Marshall in 1939. The mural, which originally hung in the West Room of the Municipal Auditorium, now known as the Civic, when the Neosho Library was once located there. It measures 7 feet high by 30 feet long and Cline says, "We're keeping it."
Like the community, Cline is looking forward to the new, improved Neosho-Newton County Library.
"It's going to be so much fun," she said and is confident that the months of construction, the minor inconveniences, are well worth the wait. "We're looking forward to a beautiful, new library to serve the  community."