This past year has been a monumental one for the Washington Public Library, which opened a new facility in 2012.
In March, the library closed for three weeks to move into its new building. A grand opening was held April 2.
“That was, of course, our biggest achievement of the year,” said Nell Redhage, library director.
“We’ve been very pleased with how the library turned out, how well the whole process went and how excited the public is about it,” she said. “I think the residents of this area are quite pleased with what their tax dollars have been able to provide.”
The building has more space for computers, leisure reading, group meetings and special events. There also are 24 computers in the new space.
“We really don’t feel constricted at all,” Redhage said. “If we want to plan to do something, we know we have the space to do it.”
Another big impact for the community, she said, is a meeting room for community use.
“It is used at least once a day, and many times two or three times per day,” said Redhage, noting the room can be split into two smaller meeting areas.
The library also features gallery space for artists to exhibit work. One local artist is featured each month.
“They (the artists) are not only getting more exposure to the public, but the public is getting more exposure to them,” Redhage said.
To be considered for the gallery, artists must fill out an application, provide proof of insurance and provide sample pieces. The gallery is booked through April.
In 2012, the library purchased 10 laptop computers, and now offers beginning computer classes to seniors on a regular basis.
“We’ve never had the space or equipment to do (the classes) before,” said Redhage, adding that the classes have been full.
Courses offered include computer basics, an Internet search class and how to set up and use an email account. Nelson Appell teaches the classes.
More classes will be offered beginning in January, though dates are not finalized yet.
For adults, a new day-time book club has been formed. There were two night book clubs already meeting, however, there had been requests for a group that meets during the day.
It has only met twice so far, but has been well-attended both times, Redhage said.
In the last several weeks, the library has created a Facebook page, which can be found by searching Washington Public Library.
Just for Kids
New to the children’s programs is the Legos Club, started by children’s librarian Ruth McInnis.
The club, which began in the summer, meets once each month.
“It’s wildly popular,” Redhage said. “The room has been full every single time.”
The summer reading program was a success this past year, with more participation than ever and good attendance at the programs.
A new addition, the children’s plaza, has allowed for more outdoor programming.
“We had outdoor programming before, but it was never easy,” Redhage said. “We always had to cordon off the parking lot before. Now we have a designated space.”
Since moving from its temporary quarters, the number of patrons visiting the library, using computers and attending special events is up.
Redhage said computer usage is up in both personal computers and wireless connections.
“Door count is way up from last year, but it is more typical of the kind of business we were doing before the construction,” she said. “Circulation is similar to what it was before.”
More, however, are coming for special programs.
“A lot of that we contribute to having this new building and added space to accommodate more people for special programs,” she said.
In 2013, Redhage said the library will continue with the computer classes and other programs currently in place.
There also will be a focus on adult programming, she said, whether it’s one-time events or continuing programs.
There are funds to add more personal computers if needed. Right now there are enough computers to meet demand, Redhage said.
Also in 2013, the library will have a new, more streamlined website.
Scenic Regional Library, Union, will join its website with the Washington Public Library in the upcoming year.
The libraries already have a combined catalog, but maintained separate program websites.
“This way, patrons don’t have to search both libraries to figure out what’s going on,” she said. “They can find it all in one space.”
Toward the end of the year, the Washington Public Library will join the Missouri Evergreen Consortium, a group of public libraries combining catalogs on the same software.
“We’ll be able to share materials among all the members in the consortium,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation for our patrons. They will have wider access to even more materials.”
Scenic Regional Library in Union will pay for the migration costs associated with joining the consortium.