Young readers get a feel for the new library in its first week of operation.
First week in new library overwhelming, thrilling
by Nathan Arneal
After years of dreaming, planning, fund raising and waiting, the North Bend Public Library welcomed the first guests into its new home last Monday.
The final day of operation for the Carnegie Library at Eighth and Mulberry streets was Saturday, April 21, exactly one day short of the 99th anniversary of its opening.
The two-story building which had housed the North Bend Library since 1913 was slowly emptied over the following week, with dozens of volunteers hauling books, newspapers, microfiche and furniture five blocks north to a brand new building.
The move went smoother than expected, but the process of opening a new library in North Bend began long ago. The first fundraiser was a bake sale held during Old Settlers 2007. That effort raised just more than $1,200. Over the next five years, the Library Foundation raised $1.3 million through fundraisers, grants and donations. Throw in in-kind donations, and the figure grows to $1.5 million.
“When donors realized the need for a new library and community room, they were overwhelmingly supportive,” Library Foundation treasurer Deanna Wolf said. “The North Bend Library Foundation and library committees spent a huge amount of time conducting a capital campaign, writing grants, and working on this project.”
While the old library averaged 150 to 175 visitors per week, the new library welcomed about 110 visitors on its first day, Monday, April 30. On day two, the head count was in the 70s. The largest crowds show up shortly after school lets out.
“Oh, my gosh,” head librarian Amy Williams said. “We get slammed daily from about 3:30 to 5:30 with the after-school crowd, which is wonderful. It’s fabulous, but it’s taking some getting used to. One librarian could man the ship at (the old library), but over here it’s taking three. It’s great to see, but it’s a bit overwhelming.”
Of course, much of the traffic can be attributed to curiosity and the novelty of a new, beautiful building in town. But Williams said even after the initial rush subsides, she expects library usage to be up compared to the old building. She points to the new location being closer to the schools and more easily accessible to the elderly and handicapped. Plus, it’s a more comfortable place to relax and read a book or magazine.
“It’s an inviting space just to come and hang out,” Williams said. “The (new) building lends itself much more to being a public meeting space. The old building always felt crowded. If you were having a conversation on one side of building, you would disturb people on other side.”
The new building certainly has plenty of space for relaxing. The main collection room has a broad open space between rows of shelves. Part of that space was filled with tables and chairs that arrived Thursday. Still coming are couches and more stuffed chairs that will allow patrons to snuggle up with a book near the fireplace.
While the librarians hope for a relaxing experience for their patrons, they themselves aren’t quite to the point of relaxation yet. With the new building comes new technology for the staff to figure out.
“Everyone is trying to learn the new computers and all the new software,” Williams said, “and at the same time help patrons learn how to navigate it all. It’s a bit much right at first.”
A new circulation system will require patrons to have their library card with them to check anything out. There is also a self-checkout station for patrons to use.
Off the main room are several smaller rooms that visitors will enjoy.
The brightly painted children’s room holds not only the children’s book collection, but educational puzzles and pint-sized tables and chairs. The two computers in the room cannot access the internet, but can run over 50 educational programs aimed at kids.
Next door to the children’s room is the genealogy room, which currently holds archives of the North Bend Eagle, the microfiche machine and other research materials. Soon the room will include computer access to genealogy software and other aides for people researching their family tree.
On the other side of the circulation desk and staff workroom is the computer lab, which houses eight desktop computers with internet access. The library also has four laptop computers with wireless internet access that can be used within the building.
On the east side of the building is a multi-purpose community room that can host public meetings or be rented out for private gatherings. It includes a kitchenette and has its own access to the outside so it can be used after library hours.
“We’ve been so overwhelmed with the computer issues and trying to make sure everything runs smoothly so that when patrons come in to use it, they don’t have a negative experience,” she said. “We want them to have a positive experience. So sometimes I lose track of the aesthetics of the place because I’m so focussed on making sure the details work for everybody.”
Even with her head swimming at times, Williams sees a bright future for the North Bend Public Library.
“To see the kids in the kids’ room playing with the puzzles and pulling books off the shelves and playing with the computers, that’s neat to see,” she said. “Hopefully that will bring them in long term.”
Wolf said she hopes the North Bend Library will flourish in its new location.
“The success of this project will be measured by how often the building is used,” she said. “My vision is increased library hours and services, a community room used every day open to every non-profit free of charge, increased educational opportunities, and a library and community room that is welcoming and inviting to all. The North Bend Public Library has the potential to greatly increase the quality of life in North Bend and the surrounding area.”
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