Real estate and research

By on September 3, 2014
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When patrons visit our library for the first time, the most heard comment has to do with either the buzzing of people or the amount of things we’ve stuffed into our building. Passersby may wonder why there is a storage pod sitting on the library lawn. That pod was the last resort to find a place to store the things that are required to operate a library and maintain the building. You’ll be happy to know that in true librarian form, everything is catalogued and has designated locations.

We have a beautiful story room, one of the centerpieces of the design of the building. However, that story room is stacked high with educational resources for the children that stream in and out of it all day long. Real estate — floor space and shelf space and people space — is at a premium. For instance, we have 11 desks and 27 staff members. There is simply no place for another desk. It’s a good thing we like each other.

While no one ever asks for them, the library no longer carries all those encyclopedia sets that once lined the shelves, dusty and unused. Long gone is the time when each shelf was neatly arranged with bookends. There is no longer room for them. What is even more remarkable is that the turnover of books is equivalent to every book in the library going out and coming in six times each year. If everyone returned their books all at one time, we’d need even more storage pods!

Our saving grace has been our push to embrace new technologies and find the appropriate time to discontinue services that are “antiquated.” For instance, the decision to stop carrying VHS tapes was a difficult one at the time because we had a few patrons who checked them out all the time. However, the writing was on the wall for this technology and I must admit that I’d stare at the shelves and imagine the possibilities. Several years ago when the shelves couldn’t hold any more, we ordered additional ones and put them in every possible location in the building. Unfortunately, we had to block some of the windows. And the light, airy character of the library has become less so with more and more shelves closing in on you.

Every time we add more shelving units, there is an excitement about what we’ll put there and it becomes a major shift. There have been times when nearly every book in the library was moved in a 2-week period. While many libraries measure their shelf space by feet, we measure it by inches.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but it’s quite the opposite. This is what responsive libraries are supposed to be. We want you to come in our doors and find something intriguing. That’s difficult if you can’t even figure out where it is. Helping us in this constant endeavor is a group of volunteers who spend countless hours making it possible to assist our patrons. They shelve books, they call people with items on hold, they repair books and check in the constant stream of materials that appear in such volume that we could not possibly keep up. This is what responsive communities are supposed to be.

Many people don’t know that public libraries fall under the Department of Education in Pennsylvania. There is a very good reason for that. Public librarians are specially trained to offer the things that patrons want – thorough reference interviews, quality programs and a collection that is carefully curated. As an educational institution, not only do we want to provide books – we want to provide access and opportunities. That being said, if there are things you’d like to see at the library, or services you’d like to offer, stop by and let me know!

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