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First Person News: Brodhead library benefits from student's work
Photo supplied Brodhead High School senior Kyle LeVault burnishes a bookshelf end piece in the new Brodhead Public Library. As a class project in the school's woodworking class, LeVault refinished 36 of the oak panels, which the library had obtained when the University of Wisconsin Medical School relocated its library several years ago.

First Person News

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BRODHEAD - Among the first things visitors admire when they enter Brodhead's new public library building is the rich brown glow of the library's gleaming new bookshelves.

But the handsome oak shelving units aren't new at all. They've been recycled and the end pieces, once scratched and battered, restored to pristine condition by Kyle LeVault, a skilled Brodhead High School pupil.

"Kyle's work has been a major contribution to our new building," said Gloria Rosa, library director. The city's new $1.5 million building at 1207 25th St. opens to the public Tuesday, March 10. It replaces the old and overcrowded building near downtown, at 902 W. Second Ave.

The shelving units had been given to the library by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, which moved into a new library several years ago and had no use for the old shelving. Brodhead volunteers trucked the units to town and stored them in a city-owned Quonset hut on 11th Street just north of the railroad tracks.

Years of hard use in Madison had left their mark on the shelves, and having been stored in an unheated Quonset hut hadn't helped. The oak end panels were chipped, scratched and discolored.

Last year, two members of the Brodhead Library Board - chairman Carol Pawlisch and Jerry Elmer - asked Brodhead High School industrial technology teacher Jim Matthys whether his students might take on the refinishing task.

"Kyle was a student in my woodworking class at the time we began the process, and I knew he needed a senior project idea," Matthys said. "He had done some nice things in class for me, so I approached him with the idea and he ran with it."

"When I started, they had scratches and broken edges and gouges," LeVault said. "I used the sander and router to remove the scratches and round off the edges. I really had to lean on the sanding machine to get it done."

Then came the refinishing phase, bringing out the warm brown color and grain of the eight-foot end panels.

LeVault estimates he spent more than 20 hours restoring the 36 oak panels. Beneficiaries of the student's craftsmanship, besides the library, are Brodhead's taxpayers, Rosa said. New end pieces would have cost about $200 each, she said - a savings of $7,200.

Contractors completed the new building ahead of schedule, which added to the student's challenge. When Rosa told him the building would open this month, "I didn't think I'd be able to get it done," LeVault said.

But he made the deadline, and the youth's handiwork can be seen and admired in the newly opened library.