Reopening Pushed Back; Date To be Announced

By John Anderson

Anyone who has done a home renovation project knows that things rarely go as planned and schedules are often just hopeful targets. I stopped by the Auburn Free Public Library on Monday, October 27th, which was the listed day of completion. What I encountered was an impressive display of dedication and hard work by the staff. The renovation, however, still has a long way to go. The stacks are in place, and books are being put in their final positions.

The efficiency of a library is largely based on a good cataloging system and accurate placement of the books, periodicals, DVD’s, etc. When everything is boxed up and stored to make changes in the library, there is plenty of opportunity for error. I witnessed a near complete section interrupted by a poorly marked box (or rogue box as they’ve come to be called). This resulted in the need to move hundreds of books. Author John Steinbeck has been paraphrased many times, “The best laid plans of mice and men….”

To define the scope of this project is as overwhelming as the project itself. All materials were removed from the stacks and stored in labeled 14x14x24” boxes, about 1,500 in total. Then, the shelves were taken apart and stored in the children’s room followed by removal and replacement of the carpet. The shelves were placed in new positions, which allowed for a new young adult area for 13-18-year-olds among other improvements. The library gained about 21 feet of new shelf space in the process, but they lack actual shelves to put on the frames. Director Carolann MacMaster has found free shelves at Williams College out in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and they only need to go get them.

The renovation would not have been possible without many helpful hands including the staff, library volunteers, students from Nichols College, the Auburn Department of Public Works and work release prisoners from the Worcester County House of Correction who have spent 9 days working at the library. MacMaster previously worked on three library moves in the academic setting, but this was a new challenge. She and Assistant Director Laura Wilson have been putting in 70-hour workweeks to get this one done.

 

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MacMaster said the new stacks are 30-45 feet deep and have a 48” aisle which is considerably wider than the 36” required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new front doors, repairs to all the windows, new blinds, and renovations to the children’s room have yet to be completed, but the facility can be open during those projects. In the interim, the garage facing the pond has housed some materials and personnel have been available to run for materials stored in other places of the building.

By handling the move by themselves, the library staff and their helpers saved about $30,000. Director MacMaster has a very pragmatic approach. When asked about renting boxes, she said they did the math, and purchasing 15,000 boxes was cheaper in the long run. She told me, “We need to use this building to its maximum potential.”

With an eye to the future, MacMaster said they are slowing down on their acquisitions of non-fiction books, but they are increasing their purchases of audio and large print books as well as DVD’s and Blu-ray Discs. The latter is for the ever-growing population who are abandoning cable.

As for those boxes, give the library a call and you can have as many as you need. Another use before recycling would be great. Auburn Mass Daily will let you know when the doors open again.