Renovation of old library produces challenges, thrills

After all the work she has been doing on the Dickinson Public Library, Director Cheryl Tollefson could be the newest interior decorator featured on the Home and Garden Television channel.

After all the work she has been doing on the Dickinson Public Library, Director Cheryl Tollefson could be the newest interior decorator featured on the Home and Garden Television channel.

For the past couple of years, Tollefson has learned the ins and outs of designing the library to maintain its original look. That means everything from seeking tin trim to wood trim, to matching chandeliers and also maintaining consistency from the new addition to the old building.

The wood trim along the base of the floor and the windows was easy enough, but the tin trim has been an adventure.

"I found on the Internet a Web site that specialized in tin ceiling restoration trim pieces," Tollefson said.

As if that wasn't enough of a gem, the Web site had decorative trims that exactly matched exactly the 1908 originals in the old library.


The design and layout of the library addition and renovation were a long time in the making, but the ceiling that was uncovered in the old addition was like a gift to Tollefson.

"We didn't know so much was in tact," Tollefson said. "When we found so much, we felt we should restore it."

Tollefson said she also thought it could help the library make it into the historical register.

"That set our course," Tollefson said.

Initially, Tollefson had a little trouble finding an exact match, but determined as she was, she called the owner of the Web site, Brian Greer, who is based in Ontario, Canada.

"We called him and he was very helpful," Tollefson said. "(Greer) helped make this real, and it was relatively inexpensive. Some tiles only cost $10."

Because the ceiling of the old building is going to be such a showcase, Tollefson is making sure to spotlight the historical artifact.

"They're going to paint the color (of the ceiling) several shades lighter than the wall cover, so there's some contrast," Tollefson said.


The restored ceiling isn't the only head covering seeing a little bit of extra special attention. The ceiling of the lower level was redone with sheetrock.

"It was a suspended ceiling before and they wanted to match the rest of the buildings," Tollefson said.

With the old building's new fire sprinkler and heating systems, the ceiling also needed to be redone. Tollefson opted to use ground source heating, which not only cut back on costs, but also saved room in maintenance closets.

"We wanted to have as much space as we could for the children's department," Tollefson said.

As library director, Tollefson has a hand in many of the decisions that affect the library's renovation, but she is certainly not the only one involved.

"Some final determinations were up to the library staff and the foundation board," Tollefson said.

Many of the contractors who have been hired to paint or otherwise construct the building also have been offering helpful suggestions.

In terms of the tin ceiling, Tollefson relied on the help of Don Kramer, who owns a sheet metal business in town.


"He had the mechanical bid for the building," Tollefson said. "And he had experience with auto body work."

That kind of knowledge is exactly what is needed to bend tin trim to match a 1908 ceiling.

Although it wasn't easy to pin down lights that would have an oil-forged bronze trim with milky white lenses, Tollefson took the simplest route to finding what she needed.

"I went to a lighting display store," she said.

Getting closer

After work finished on the new addition in February, reconstruction began in the old addition in early March. Much of the renovation was to be completed by June, but as with many construction projects, things got delayed.

"Everything seemed to take longer," Tollefson said.

She said there was not one single thing that delayed the renovation's completion. Still, it's getting closer every day.


"We're hoping to button up all this by the fall," Tollefson said. "Not necessarily button up, but complete everything."

She hopes much of the interior work will be completed at the end of September when the outdoor landscaping gets under way.

Once the librarians begin to move books back into the renovated building, Tollefson doesn't expect the library to close like it did with the opening of the new addition.

"It'll be an easier move, so we're hoping we don't have to," Tollefson said.

Once those finishing touches are added, the library renovation will be finished and perhaps Tollefson can rest a little easier. Until, of course, she starts applying to the historical register and begins preparations for the centennial anniversary of the library.

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