By Joan S. Edgerly
Why do we need a library expansion? That is a question that I am going to answer. Not only from my perspective, but from many who have shared their feelings with me. First, I would like to share some of my experiences.
My first trip was to a branch library in Bridgeport. I was in 4th grade and we were given a list of questions to answer. But wait. There were no lessons about libraries before we left, no instructions as to where to go or who to ask for help. I don’t remember how my classmates made out, but for some reason the answers seemed somewhat obvious to me. The experience is still in the forefront of my mind. From that time on, a library has been like a second home to me.
Before I go on, I should comment on my library experiences. I started out as a 4th grade teacher, got married and moved to Meriden in 1961. I finished my master’s in education, but still felt drawn to libraries! I served on several city boards and in 1980 was appointed to the Library Board of Directors (now called the Board of Trustees). Shortly after that, I worked as a library assistant at the State Police Academy in Meriden. My boss knew of my passion for libraries and insisted that I get that M.L.S. I did so and went to Griswold Elementary School, in Berlin, as the library media specialist.
These experiences have given me a lot of information about how libraries work behind the scenes as well as what the public sees!
My concern is that many people are not aware of what a library really constitutes to a community. Of course they have changed over the years. For a long time these facilities loaned books, magazines and some historical items. It was very much a walk in, sign an item or two out and leave. Some patrons did stay and read or ask a staff member for help in choosing a book or with doing some research. There were occasional story hours and some special programs. The libraries of today are much different. That is why more space is needed.
Let’s fast forward to how libraries have changed. The desire to borrow books is still very much in evidence. Our budget does not allow us to buy every book in print so we have to borrow from other libraries. The reverse is, also, true. We all share. CDs are very popular, as are DVDs. Computers are a definite yes. Fortunately, we have several and a knowledgeable staff to go to for help. We have a much needed teen area that needs expansion. When we did a public survey, one of the top items was a much larger children’s room. If you have been there recently, you have seen that it is so small you can hardly move.
Meeting rooms are in great demand and we have very few. The expansion would improve that greatly. One great advantage would be that those rooms would be available for city and public use even when the library is closed. The expansion design has provided for that feature. Also, meeting room sizes can be changed to serve groups of all sizes. Just doing the renovation does not provide that ability.
A food court has been mentioned but that is not the case. There may be room to be used at a later date if patrons want to bring a snack. At this time no food is allowed in the library.
The Connecticut State Library says that a community of our size should have a facility of 58,400 square feet. We now have 47,000 and the expansion would add a fair amount to that. One of our prime features is that our building is downtown and near the Meriden Green. It is within walking distance of many of our residents.
Our library is open to everyone. The public has access to written materials, a variety of modern technology and the ability to get help needed from an educated and well trained staff. The expansion will also provide flexibility to information and events.
Our building is nearly 50 years old. The expansion will look to the future and serve the whole community in ways they have not had available to them before.
Please see how this investment is one of the most positive steps that Meriden can make for all of us. This is not just for now, but for so many years to come.
Joan S. Edgerly is president of the Meriden Library Board of Trustees.