WILMINGTON — Since the Wilmington Memorial Library doesn’t have a projected new building date until 2034 according to the Facilities Master Plan, they’re finding innovative ways to make use of their space to best meet the needs of the community.
Last year, the Wilmington Facility Master Plan confirmed the need for an expanded Wilmington library. WML Director Tina Stewart explained that she respects the priorities of the master plan and is prepared to use the building in new ways until then.
Since the Wilmington Memorial Library lost the vote to build a new library in 2005, it has been the mission of the staff and Friends of the Library to get the best use of their limited space. In one sense, Stewart shared that they’re grateful for the 2005 vote because it allowed for the creation of the Bookstore Next Door, which has helped pay for the library’s programs and small updates since its opening in 2007.
One way they’ve rearranged according to need is by digitizing some old town information and reference books to create more office, meeting, and seating space.
They’re very pleased with the added seating space on both floors including two separate desktop computer sections. Following a survey in which library-goers voted for quiet space, they have created a designated quiet area with tables and soft seating. Stewart shared that they really want to offer a living room atmosphere where people can sit and read or do work more comfortably. They even built a seating area outside with a few benches and picnic tables so that guests can read and use wi-fi outdoors.
The Banda Room, located on the second floor, which previously held local history books, has become a public meeting room. It can also be used to host library programs and staff training. There’s also an updated projector system in the end meeting room for large meetings to more easily share screens.
Stewart also previewed the space downstairs maximized for small work areas, where separators mark off cubicles for two librarians to work with limited privacy. For the near future, they have planned a project to close off the second staircase to provide a designated area for the Tech Librarian to meet with people and either another meeting room or quiet area. The money for this construction update comes from a donation made by Barbara Johnson when she passed away in 2015.
A lot of the space inside the library is designed to be flexible, so that the space can be adapted for special events. About three times a year, the library stays open on a Friday night for a concert, and that’s where the rolling shelves come in handy. They can simply move these display shelves out of the way to create space for the band to play and for concert attendees to enjoy.
They also put in hanging art holders where artists can display their pieces in one of the meeting rooms upstairs.
Besides maximizing space to fit the needs of the people, the library has been making its space more user-friendly. They’ve added multiple spaces for light recreational activity, including a lobby by the front entrance and a puzzle corner behind the quiet area.
Knowing that guests aren’t walking in through the front door, they moved the main service desk over to the side so that they can greet people as they enter from the back of the library. They’ve let more light into the downstairs by putting in more windows and light fixtures while removing shelves that block the sun.
Across the library, there are more face-forward displays and librarian recommendations so that guests can browse some of the books offered without reaching into the shelf randomly.
Upstairs, they’ve brought updates to the children’s and teen’s areas. The walls have been repainted with brighter colors and there is now more room for the puppet theater and other interactive game play.
“The Friends of the Library raised money for a custom bookcase where kids get to put their collections,” Stewart added.
Anyone interested in displaying a small figurine or similar collection can contact the library and be placed on the waiting list. There’s also a shelf full of different learning kits for borrowing, labeled with topics like Electronics and Problem-Solving so that kids can learn things that they might actually be interested in.
Finally, the teen section includes more casual reading space and more popular media like graphic novels and board games.
The library aims to keep its content up-to-date according to the things that people in town would actually use. The desktop computers are updated every few years. They now offer a digitized video service and have a new Virtual Reality kit on the way. The Technology Librarian can give guests an introduction of the 3-D printer available for use.
“We want to be a place where people come to learn about new tech,” Stewart continued.
There’s a new section called the Library of Things, which contains borrowable items like a tent, a telescope, an Amazon Echo, and a Roku.
Next to the Library of Things is a self-hold area. There, guests can pick up the books that they order on reserve and use self-check-out without stopping at the staffed desk. Other miscellaneous changes include a handicap-equipped bathroom and a program where guests donate food pantry items instead of paying fines for overdue books.
Stewart also shared that the feedback that they’ve received about all of the updates has been really positive. The staff at the Wilmington library view the makeover as a constant work-in-progress while they wait for a new building.