Friday, October 18, 2019
Community Library Opens a Front Porch for the Community
Kristin Poole was the first to try out one of the new self-checkout machines.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019


The Community Library unveiled a new self-checkout station Monday, along with a front porch for the community.

Director Jenny Emery Davidson cut the ribbon on the new front entryway on Spruce Street as more than three dozen people looked on.

She quoted Shel Silverstein’s “If you are a dreamer, come in…” And then the new automatic doors ushered people into a spacious entryway looking onto the library’s iconic fireplace, which boasts dark rocks believed to have been plucked from a quarry near Challis.

Jenny Emery Davidson, wearing an orange Community Library T-shirt, celebrates the ribbon cutting with Carter Hedberg.

An oak floor reclaimed from a barn in Jerome comprised the floor of the entry way underneath lights shrouded in thin wooden panels.

“Having been on the library board for 16 years, this is a much-needed upgrade,” said Carol Harlig. “It’s so much more inviting. And it’s so exciting to see what the community can do together. “

“It’s so beautiful and exciting when you walk in,” said Tedde Reid, who has been a fulltime member of the community just the past few years.

“I think it’s fabulous,” added Kristin Poole. “So open, so light, so inviting. And, once again, what an amazing community.”

Pam Parker and Aly Wepplo check out the shiny new sorting apparatus.

It was the front entryway that started the library on a reimagining journey that led to a two-year makeover, said Davidson.

“It didn’t meet accessibility standards, it was cracked and the concrete was crumbling, the curb was dilapidated and snow removal was a problem,” she said. “We wanted to create a front entrance that is inviting and to make it easy for people to come in the door, whether they are carrying stacks of books or  have babies in tow, whether they’re using a wheelchair or are on crutches.”

The sidewalks in front of the library are now heated so patrons don’t have to worry about slipping on ice. A wide ramp sitting behind block letters pronouncing “The Community Library” offer easier access for wheelchair users than before. And benches offer a place for patrons to enjoy summer breezes.

Inside, the main service desk has been moved to the side, allowing a more open passageway into the library. And half of that desk is lower to the floor, allowing librarians to sit while they help people and allowing children and people using wheelchairs to be able to interact with the librarian easily.

The Community Library hopes to exhibit Dale Chilhuly’s blown glass in its new entryway beginning in early August. Special books displays are also expected to rotate in and out.

On the wall is a self-check-in screen where a person can deposit books and audiotapes, which then follow a conveyor belt that sorts them into fiction, nonfiction, children’s, audiotapes and books on hold.

Self-checkin and checkout machines allow patrons to make transactions in private. They also provide an immediate record of a book’s return so that someone who has reserved it is notified immediately. And it allows the returnee to immediately check out a new bunch of books.

“We typically come in the morning to find between 75 and 150 books piled up that we need to sort. So, this frees us to do other work,” said Circulation Supervisor Pam Parker, who added that the limits for audiobooks have just been increased to six per category and the limits for new books to three per category.

Librarians spent the winter putting new tags on each one of the 80,000 items that can be checked out, said Davidson.

The wall by the main service station is covered with ruminations that boil down to the idea that “ideas are not just held here. They are born here.”

Staff and board members looked at automatic sorting systems for two years until they decided on this particular system, which Parker describes as the best of the best.

“It’s called the Automated Materials Handling System, but we call it ‘Returns,’ ” she said. “Our hope is that it will free up librarians to help people, to take them to the stacks and talk about books.”

It’s also hoped that the time librarians save not having to check in 300 to 500 books a day or check out 300 to 500 books a day can enable the library to expand hours, Davidson said.

That’s already started with the library being opened from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays periodically.

Carter Hedberg, the library’s director of philanthropy, choked up as he recounted the gifts from 500 patrons who have made the renovation possible. “Such broad support and I’m so grateful,” he said.

The library gets 400 visitors a day and 125,000 over the course of a year, said Davidson. Library cards have gone to part-time residents and visitors from as far away as South Africa.

The library employs 45 men and women, including Gold Mine thrift store employees.

The regional history reading room will be the next to be finished in mid-October, said Davidson. The children’s project room and the plaza outside the children’s library is expected to be finished in late October. Another ribbon cutting celebrating the entire project is expected to be held in early November.


Children’s Library Director DeAnn Campbell says that the Bloom Truck, which provides free lunch and free books to kids in the Wood River Valley during summer, served nearly 250 children during the first week of summer.

“We’ve had to restock the truck with over six boxes of new books and we’ve signed up nearly 75 kids for our summer reading program ‘A Universe of Stories,’ ” she said.

Five high school students—the library’s first ever summer reading interns—are helping out.

The Hunger Coalition’s Sloan Storey is churning out sun butter and honey sandwiches, veggie and pasta salad, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, popcorn and snap peas. And partner organizations are serving up fun activities for the children.

The bright orange truck will make its way up and down the valley through mid-August.


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