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Bold Eye For the Bookworms

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The first phase involves a conversion of the public-use space on the first floor to a combined reader center, reconfiguring the area, sizing back the circulation desk and adding a big new information desk.

The second phase calls for combining the adult and young-adult collections on the first floor. This means emptying the Dooley Wing, which holds the library’s extensive music and art collections, adding a children’s reading room and children’s bathrooms, and building a black-box performance and activity space. “A family can walk in and on one floor immediately access what they need,” says City Librarian Robert Rieffel.

The third phase of the project calls for installing a system to create a climate-controlled special collections room on the lower level — where the children’s section currently stands. “There’s very scholarly stuff in there — the library’s crown jewels,” Rieffel says of the 5,000-volume, internationally renowned, children’s rare-book collection. The public hasn’t been able to view it for seven years. An especially temperate space will change this.

Without the resources to house and preserve the books, the library had considered selling them. Instead, Rieffel says, it recognized their value as being one of the premier children’s collections in the country and decided to invest in building its own suitable space “for precious and historic materials.”

The fourth and final phases of renovation will give the front lobby a facelift and add widened, glass front doors that open automatically and are handicapped-accessible. “Even City Hall doesn’t have them,” Rieffel points out. The second floor will be converted into a public-service area for computers, periodicals, microfilm — anything that doesn’t need to be checked out.

Rieffel says he’s thrilled the renovations are underway. It’s a big wave in what he envisions for the library’s future: becoming a full-service information center that’s aesthetically pleasing and technologically cutting-edge. The public will benefit in myriad ways, he says. The climate-controlled room downstairs will allow people access to the rare children’s collection. And for ease, he says: “Anything you want to borrow and take out will be on the first floor.” - Brandon Walters

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