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Things Change

March 28, 2011

One of the colder days last week, toward dusk, the wind shifted enough to dislodge tumbleweeds from fences and other resting places. They skipped, hopped, and tumbled down the road, hundreds of them racing before the wind, escaping across the golf course and down the streets into town.

It was hard not to see enthusiasm in their leaps and great joy in their sudden freedom.

Things change.

This year, the library will make its last “mortgage” payment, paying off the bond used to construct the addition to the old Carnegie building, completed in December 1997.

Since then, the library has grown. In 1998, we checked out 68,000 items. In 2010, we checked out 196,000. The library collection has grown from 24,000 items to 64,000 in that time. Annual visits from 52,000 to 153,000. Staff from 5 FTE to 8 FTE (full time equivalents).

It’s a busier place, which is wonderful. Our library is a good one because the community wants it and uses it.

A few years ago, I figured that we’d be looking at building another addition by now, and we could certainly use it, but it’s probably not the best time economically or politically for that.

It might not be the best time functionally, either. Our future growth may be in digital content rather than print. The next five years will likely be full of change this way as our society works out the role of libraries in distributing digital content.

But our library needs more shelf space, more room for people, more room for staff. We have almost as many items in our basement annex as we had in our entire collection when we built the addition.

So, we’ve started a remodeling project to expand within our existing building and make the best use of our current space. Last August, the staff and board spent a day with library design consultants to review what we have and what we want, plus what we didn’t know we wanted.

Since then, the staff has lived with the ideas and modified them. This winter, with the generous help of local architect Bob Grether, we assembled a plan for change that looked worthwhile.

It’s not set in stone yet. You may have seen a notice in the paper requesting information from interested architects. The board will review qualifications, request proposals, select an architect, and then we’ll get down to the details of change.

A likely scenario is to build a new meeting room in the basement of the addition, where the book sales are held. The current meeting room, which is the basement of the Carnegie building, will become public space, possibly a computer-free reading and work area along with shelving.

The space beside the meeting room may become a staff work area. Upstairs, we’ll do some demolition, making a new place for public computers and room for more shelving.

It will be a logistical challenge for the selected contractor, since we want to keep the library open during the remodeling. However, the work lends itself to this. The library has four distinct floors.

The remodeling will require heating and ventilation work, too, which some of you will appreciate. The library currently has a big temperature gradient from hot in the Carnegie building to cold in the children’s room, both winter and summer.

We may not solve all problems. Someone left this note last week: “The # of men at Salida Library who fail to shower or clean themselves is huge!”

But we’ll discuss it with the ventilation engineer.

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