Another chapter in the history of the Kaukauna Public Library was written today as the doors to its new Thilmany Road home opened to the public for the first time. Proud residents, representatives and library employees gathered in the front entryway waiting with anticipation for the curtain to be pulled during an unveiling of the building steeped with history as the Eagle Mill, but ready for a bright future during its second life as a community gathering space.
“I’m proud and happy, and relieved, to say that charge has been completed,” shared Director Tony Wieczorek with the crowd.
Approximately 300 donors received a sneak peek of the library on Sunday before it was opened to the public today. Wieczorek credited Ashley Thiem-Menning, programming librarian, and the rest of the library staff with pulling everything together for the opening.
The new library includes meeting rooms, a pretend play area, study rooms a conference room and cozy gathering spots sprinkled throughout its design, along with other unique design features like archways created from spaces where windows used to be and a window in Thiem-Menning’s office that allows her to see the joy of the children as they experience the play space in the Childrens Collection.
Thiem-Menning, a former preschool specialist at the Appleton Public Library, is most excited about the children’s programming and bringing her own two children — 3-year-old daughter, Ruby, and 8-week-old son, Mack, back to explore more. Thiem-Menning took time out of her maternity leave to get the new library up and running, but the children were on hand to “test” things out for their mom.
“We did really put a lot of thought into this place. We wanted it to be a community gathering space,” she adds, noting it was the hope that people would come from beyond just the City of Kaukauna.
The Vosters family from the Town of Vandenbroek couldn’t wait to check out the new library.
“Well, the Childrens Department, naturally,” says Vicky Vosters is what drew her to coming on opening day. She made the trip a family affair with her grandchildren. She recalled taking her own children to the old Kaukauna Public Library and now being able to enjoy the space and activities with her 2-year-old grandson, Graham, who enjoyed a computer game and 18-month-old grandaugther, Violet, who liked the block table.
“It will be so much more space and the librarians are so good with the kids,” Vicky said. “I guess I’m just pretty lucky. So, is Kaukauna.”
“It’s beautiful. We were so excited to see all the spaces,” adds Sarah Vosters, mom to Graham and Violet. “We were just really excited to see all the fun play areas.”
Haley Mader of Kaukauna was drawn to the Adult Fiction Collection.
“I was just looking forward to the openness of the library,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to get in after seeing the preview pictures (on Facebook). … It’s outstanding. I could not expect it to be any better than this. I love it!”
Ken Kilgas, a Darboy resident, decided to do his American Legion work at the library today. His father, uncles and cousins once worked at the Eagle Mill.
“I remember my dad telling stories about the neighborhood,” he shares.
Gary Keating, president of the Library Board, was happy to see the dream of the library become reality.
“I think collaboration is an important part of learning and research. Being able to offer that onsite is going to be able to help people achieve their goals,” he says.
Aaron Lahm with Amplitel Technologies was onsite working out tweaks with the library’s phone system and couldn’t believe the transformation of the building from start to finish.
“From what it started with to now is amazing. It’s amazing what they did,” he says.
Stevie Powers of Sherwood also was amazed by the building. She was enjoying the library with her children, 15-year-old Tristan and 11-year-old Jordan, who were doing some classwork as part of their homeschooling.
“I love the space and I see there’s room to grow,” Stevie noted. “We came to study for the morning.”
“I think it’s really nice and it’s a really great upgrade from what it was,” Tristan added.
The family was enjoying one of the nook seating areas.
The mayor also was among the first in the community to take in the new library, which is in the former Eagle Mill, now known as Grand KaKalin. Mayor Gene Rosin calls the development, a perfect example of a public-private partnership. The project took the vision of the City of Kaukauna, Kaukauna Public Library, National Park Service, Wisconsin Historical Society, Expera Specialty Solutions, Stadtmueller & Associates, Horizon Development Group, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Due to the community’s support of the project and a number of donations, no tax dollars were used in the creation of the new library.
“We’re very happy. This is a testament to Kaukauna,” Rosin shares.
“I think it says a lot about our community that we could fundraise so quickly to do this,” adds Thiem-Menning.
The public is invited to attend a formal ribbon cutting and celebration of the library which will be held April 28 from 3:30-7 p.m. at its new location, 207 Thilmany Road. For now, however, the library remains open for service during normal hours and patrons are encouraged to visit.
As Wieczorek stated before the doors were opened to the new facility, “Enjoy your library!”
Editor’s Note: To read more about the Kaukauna Public Library and developments happening in Kaukauna, visit our March Issue Movers and Shakers article.