By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer
Guests at the Clinton Public Library may notice a few changes in the coming weeks — changes that library staff members are feeling energized and encouraged about.
Approximately six months after the fall of 2011, when library director Amy Birtell began her career at the Clinton Public Library, an initiative to reduce collection sizes and reorganizing those collections began to take shape. Now that initiative has come to fruition and the vision is a reality.
“Our goal was to try and open things up,” Birtell said. “By the time we’re finished, we should have right around 80,000 items total in the entire building and really, considering our square footage, that’s still too much.”
The first big step in the reorganization process was to whittle the library’s extensive non-fiction section that formerly occupied the 10,000-book capacity mezzanine on the main floor of the library.
In doing so, staff weeded out more than half of the 25,000 books that were located on the upper level and moved them directly below, making them easier to access and updating the content within the selection.
“One of our main complaints from people was that all the non-fiction books were on the mezzanine level, which is not ADA compliant and not accessible by wheelchair,” Birtell said. “So that’s what really got this going.”
In moving the non-fiction from the mezzanine, the reorganization team needed to find homes for the selection of books that would soon be relocated, which created a complete shift in the library’s former layout.
But, not to worry. As everything has moved to a new location, library staff members say the new design within the building offers a more ideal set up for all of the library’s patrons.
The young adult section is now located on the mezzanine floor, offering them a space all their own for study sessions, tutoring opportunities and a more laid-back feeling for those teenagers and young adults that utilize the space.
“A lot of kids are tutored at the library and before we didn’t have much table space for them to use,” Birtell said. “Now we’ve opened it up for a study area and really a teen space.”
The relocation also offered a new space for the large-print book selection directly near the library’s large picture windows, creating an ideal and sunlit space for those who have trouble seeing the print in books and magazines.
Students at Clinton High School also will incorporate their skills and build several benches to be added to the aisles of the large-print section, making browsing the lower levels of the shelves an easier task.
Birtell hopes this new design will revitalize the library’s appearance as well as offer efficient space for what she believes will be an active year at the library.
“We are anticipating more than 500 kids will participate in the summer program this year,” Birtell said. “So we’re really hoping more people will come in and begin utilizing what we’ve got here.”
While she is unaware how the reorganization will be received by the community, her confidence is boosted by how widely accepted the Lyons branch reorganization was a little more than a year ago.
That reorganization project offered a model to the main branch, which saw how a few changes made to the design of the Lyons branch increased efficiency and practicality in a few short weeks.
Megan Sattler, circulation assistant, said that since the reorganization was completed more than a year ago, the Lyons branch has been able to utilize more space for children and adult programming.
“It was very closed in before and we really wanted to open it up so last summer we decided to change it around,” Sattler said. “As soon as we started pulling stuff out of the middle it really opened up a lot.”
Birtell has been pleased with the reception received at the Lyons Branch and hopes that that same attitude will be given to the main branch’s reorganization efforts in the next couple of weeks while they finalize the move.
“Lyons looks beautiful and it’s really seen a lot of interest in the past couple of months,” Birtell said. “We’re just hoping that all of these changes will generate some more activity and people will start getting excited about the library again.”