2024-05-21 7:47 PM

Guest Commentary: Mary Riley Styles Library Reopens Just As Life Does This Summer

By Jenny Carroll

Mary Riley Styles Public Library has gone through many changes over the past year — moving to a trailer, navigating a pandemic and overseeing the renovation and construction of our permanent building. The next step is to move into the new building, which means preparing staff, the collection and the building to receive visitors.

What will be new? The most obvious will be the addition of over 6,000 square feet, giving the library much-needed space for programming space, conference rooms, group study rooms and children’s and adult areas. The building — parts of which are original to 1957, 1967 and 1992 constructions — desperately needed updates to the heating and cooling system, plumbing, additional bathrooms and a new elevator. The renovation also included new paint, shelving, furniture, lighting and décor. All of the physical changes have led to a beautiful building full of light and comfort while maintaining the welcoming ambiance that the community has come to expect.

Opening the renovated building also gives us a chance to re-evaluate the library’s operating hours to better accommodate our patrons. A customer-driven assessment showed us we need additional evening hours on the weekends, greater consistency to the schedule and continuing weekday evening hours for convenient programming. Library staff will continue to deliver high-quality programs to children, such as story time, early release Wednesday activities and performances. We look forward to offering programs in the new Teen Room and new adult programs in the new conference and meeting rooms, as well.

The conference rooms and group study rooms will provide staff with space and flexibility to provide programs and will be available for use by the community for free. The library will have one large conference room and one medium-sized conference room, though the medium-sized conference room is actually 2-3 times larger than our former conference room! Two group study rooms will be available for patrons to access throughout the day to study and work using our library’s free Wi-Fi. We will implement new meeting room scheduling software that patrons will be able to access online or in-person at the service desks to reserve a room.

A deliberate decision in the planning of the building was to expand and bring the Local History room to the main level, giving this unique community resource a more prominent space in the library. One of our goals is to open the Local History room on a regular schedule throughout the week, rather than using a reservation-only system and we hope to use the many resources of the room to enhance and guide our programming.

What will be the same? Our wonderful library staff provide excellent personalized customer service, of course! They got you through Covid with curbside service and online and phone assistance and now you can see them in-person to assist you with all of your library needs. We’re also maintaining our robust collection of physical and digital resources and when we reopen, staff will be there to help you find old favorites and discover new adventures on our shelves and in our digital library. The library will continue to be fine-free for overdue materials and will offer automatic renewal of physical items. Computers will still be available in the adult and youth areas, along with printing and copying, a microfilm reader and Wi-Fi.

In the last year, we also increased our focus on issues relating to racial and social equity. Staff has completed diversity audits of the collection and increased the number of diverse titles that we offer. We evaluated many of our policies through the lens of racial and social equity and the Library Board of Trustees approved new and updated policies for the new building. In addition to eliminating overdue fines, we will also offer the first 10 pages of printing for free. The Library Board and staff will continue to work toward racial and social equity going forward.

Finally, even though restrictions have been lifted, Covid is still a concern. We will continue to encourage all visitors and staff to wear masks and practice safe distancing and personal hygiene, as not all people who want to use the library are vaccinated or able to be vaccinated (like children under 12 years old). We hope that patrons will take comfort in seeing the familiar and enjoy all of the new features of the building.

I am proud of the work that city staff, library staff, Library Board of Trustees, BKV Group Architects and Centennial Contractors Enterprises, Inc., have accomplished in the last 15 months. We are excited to share the new building with the public and welcome you in — stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter for our official ribbon cutting and open date in early/mid-August and a grand opening celebration in September or October!

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