New doesn’t necessarily translate into “new” when talking about the Monroe Public Library.
Yes, there is long history of offering library services in Monroe and, by those standards, our current facility is new, modern and improved. But when referring to the actual building as being “new,” well, . . . it isn’t so “new” anymore. In fact, it has been a full 25 years since all those books were passed hand to hand between the old Ludlow Library building and the current location.
And a lot has changed in those years.
“The library faces a shortage of space,” said Suzann Holland, library director. “That’s hard to believe because 25 years ago, this was so much more space than it was thought we would ever need.”
“The way people use libraries has changed considerably,” Holland said. “No longer are they just a place to find books. They have become meeting spaces and technology centers in addition to the more traditional roles in the community.
Holland and her staff work hard to ensure visitors see a smoothly run operation. Behind the scenes, however, that operation routinely hits a road bump or two that need attention.
Among the improvements needed:
Although the building was refurbished to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act, standards have tightened in the past 25 years. The staircase is a prime example. A focal point of the library, it no longer meets code and the openness presents a safety issue for small children. Modifying the current staircase will cost more than replacing it. A new staircase will take up less space, but still offer visual interest.
Restroom renovations are badly needed. There are eight restrooms, all of which need to be brought up to current code. Restrooms in the lower level which serve the genealogy room and the school district’s tech department have degraded and there are large gaping holes in the walls.
The entry doors are difficult to manage. Library pages, who are responsible for locking the building at closing, have been forced to learn special tricks when the doors won’t lock and sometimes won’t even close. Usage by those with mobility issues is also difficult.
Study rooms have HVAC problems and need soundproofing.
The current teen area has a sight line issue with the children’s desk. Staff are required to look at camera feeds to keep an eye on things. A revamped teen area will better utilize the space and be relocated directly across from the children’s desk.
The Literacy Council has long been a partner with the library. Currently, they operate out of a nook and need space for tutors, clients and office space.
A quiet reading room is needed to serve all ages.
While it all sounds good, it comes with a price.
The library is currently in the midst of a $1.5 million fund-raising campaign for needed improvements — both to the building and in the technology area — as well as provide for the future.
“Our library needs these renovations to ensure it will be around for generations to come,” said Nicole Cummings, president of the library’s board of trustees. “These are not necessarily ‘glamorous’ renovations, but they are needed and will enhance the library. As a community, we have the opportunity to come together to fund this project.’’
“The proposed renovations will enable us to keep pace with the quickly evolving way that people use their public libraries,” she said. “This project is born of not only the needs that your library team has identified, but direct input from our community.”
New or not, the library comes back to community. When the Ludlow family built the original library in 1905, they welcomed the community on opening day with a simple message: The library is yours. Enjoy all the library offers.
A century later, that message remains, stronger — and louder — than ever.
— Gary Neuenschwander