GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Public Library is transforming along with the demands of its patrons.
When the library first opened its 40,000-square-foot location on McKenzie Road a decade ago, fewer people had computers at home, and tablets and e-readers were still a thing of the future.
But today’s patrons are plugged in, creating more demand for open seating space and study rooms with tech support for devices of all sorts. To meet that demand, library officials have set aside $150,000 for renovation of the main library space. At its most recent meeting, the Hancock County Library Board approved spending about $12,000 of that on hiring an architect to approve tentative plans sketched out by building manager Kevin Gioe.
Library staff will meet this week with an architect from krM Architecture to make sure their tentative plans are feasible and to get a set of working drawings that can be approved by the state for fire and electrical code standards, Gioe said. Initial construction on the renovations could begin in a few weeks, once the plans are approved, he said.
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Library director Dave Gray met with library staff to see what they thought would be the best use of space.
Their plans include creating more seating areas in the main library area, as well as creating as many as three more study rooms along the east side of the wall, Gray said. In addition, Gray plans to turn all the bookshelves 90 degrees, in order to create more space for seating and study rooms.
The main desk and the information desk will be combined into one desk, located in the middle of the library, in an effort to use space more efficiently, said assistant director Barb Roark.
“It will keep staff from ping-ponging from desk to desk,” she said.
The section hosting DVDs, CDs, and audio books will be scooted southeast, near where the public computer area is now, Gioe said, and the area that these items currently occupies will be one of the spaces dedicated to quiet seating.
In the past six years, the library has seen its electronic circulation skyrocket, from about 10,000 check-outs in 2010 to more than 197,000 last year, according to the library’s 2015 annual report.
Meanwhile, patrons have shifted from seeking physical copies of CDs, DVDs and audio books to choosing electronic files of the same titles, Gray said.
Gray said he believes the demand for physical copies of items like CDs and DVDs will continue to decline as patrons make the switch to streaming versions of those types of media.
Some changes have already been made to make the library more patron-friendly. The main lobby area has new tables, seating and a large, curved bar table along the front window where users can plug in their devices.
The plans drawn up by Gioe and library staff will reduce the number of public computers from 32 to 20, because patrons are asking for more space rather than computers, Gray said.
Patrons comment that the study rooms are almost always full, he said; library staff have wanted to address that need for a while. The library will continue to offer check-out of devices — it loans out about 10 laptops and 12 iPads to patrons.
Depending upon the cost of the renovations, construction could be completed in phases, Gray said; his priority is to make the updates frugally rather than quickly.
“We hope to get as much done as possible this year,” he said.
Existing materials will be recycled in an effort to keep costs low, Gray said. Library staff members plan to reuse bookshelves and counter tops as much as possible during the renovation process.
– More study rooms – up to three additional
– More quiet seating areas
– Fewer public computers
– Creation of one main desk
– DVD and CD sections moving