Library sets sights on major remodel

Library sets sights on major remodel

Many parents who bring their children to story time at the Durham Library were children themselves in 1995, the last time the library received a significant interior update.  

The scene of a beloved librarian reading “Green Eggs and Ham” or “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” to a group of enraptured children has changed little since then.  

But to those children in 1995, the sound of technology was the beeping of a dial-up modem and the gentle voice from a computer that alerted a family member: “you’ve got mail!”  

Now grown up, when they take their own children to story time, they bring along their personal laptop computers, connect wirelessly to the library’s network, and read and check out books on their mobile phones.  

As technology and community needs change, the library must adapt and grow. But it must do so while holding on to the classic, charming elements that patrons have always loved.  Recognizing this need, the Connecticut State Library Board awarded the Durham Public Library a grant of $146,957. This money is to be used to renew the library’s interior space to best meet the community’s current needs, while honoring the historic institution’s past.

A key requirement of the grant is that it must be matched by contributions from the town and the community, so public and private fundraising will be important next steps.    

The grant award culminates a strategic planning process that involved both library patrons and the Durham community at large. Responding to desires expressed by both groups, the library staff and Board of Directors created a plan that calls for reconfiguring the interior space with two small study rooms, quiet reading areas, and new furnishings for the circulation and teen spaces. The renewal project will enable the library to complete long-needed maintenance projects, including adding an automatic front door that will assist patrons with mobility challenges, redoing the main floor restrooms, and repainting and carpeting key spaces. The grant funding will also allow the library to upgrade public computers and add facilities to better enable “bring your own device” access for patrons.  

The Durham Library is a prized and respected institution in town. Durham has one of the highest per capita book circulation rates in the state and a high number patron visits for a town its size.

According to Library Director Christine Michaud: “This project is an important part of making the library responsive to the community. The new study rooms and the automatic doors, in particular, are frequently requested by our patrons, and it is important to keep up with technological changes.”

This plan is part of the library’s mission of “growing knowledge and community” and will position the library to continue to meet community needs in the 21st century.

David E. Foster is a member of the Durham Public Library Board of Trustees.

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