Library in full swing ahead of grand reopening

Library Manager Isabelle Cramp restocks shelves at the library Wednesday morning. Although blue curtains hold patrons back from seeing just what their new library will look like, the library is very much open and ready to serve. – Morinville News Staff Photos

By Robert Jump

Morinville – Seven-foot tall blue curtains separate library patrons from the expanded floor space that is to be the Morinville Community Library, a temporary barrier erected while library staff, board members and volunteers put the finishing touches on a facility those involved believe will truly make the community proud.

But while the library is operating in only a portion of the space made available to them by the Town of Morinville, they are maximizing that space with an active summer of getting reconnected with patrons and keeping children engaged through the summer reading program.

“The most exciting thing is we are back in the library and it feels good to be back,” said Library Manager Isabelle Cramp. “We have all our new collection available to the public as we did at the Parish Hall, but we’ve actually extended what we were carrying. So we have more material to go through.”

Although there are more books and videos for people to go through than was available at the library’s temporary location, access to all that additional space will have to wait a while longer. But the curtains are as much about creating some suspense and excitement as anything else. The open areas are but a teaser.

“When people come in they will notice right away that we’ve blocked the view for the rest of the library so we can keep the surprise and the full effect of seeing the library put back together,” Cramp said. “I think a lot of people will be pleasantly amazed with how the library looks now compared to the way it used to look. We’ve already had that comment from people coming in, even though they have a restricted view of what there is out there. They can’t believe the change. They can’t believe how open it feels. They’re saying they can’t even picture anymore what it used to look like because the change is so big.”

It is precisely those changes that lead the library board to vote in favour of completely opening the library when the library was completely ready to be opened.

“The board held a meeting shortly after the move from the Parish Hall and decided the best way to show the public how proud we are of this facility and what it has to offer the community was to wait until we could take people on a proper tour through every nook and cranny,” said Board Chair Stephen Dafoe. “The library staff have done an excellent job of serving patrons out of the Parish Hall over the past year and they are excited about the new levels of service they will be able to provide in the new facility. An extra month or month-and-a-half of preparation to ensure everything is to their high standards on grand opening day is something the board unanimously supported.”

But staff is not sitting idle in the interim while shelves are built and repopulated with hard and soft cover titles. Cramp explained the inter-library loan program, new releases, children’s programming and long-term planning are all proceeding apace while the library moves closer each day to opening its doors on serving a community on the verge of becoming a city. Thus far the response has been favourable from old and new patrons.

“We’ve had lots of people come through to renew their membership who did not come to the Parish Hall,” Cramp said. “We’ve had lots of new membership[s] since we’ve moved back in the library. Every one of our regular patrons that have come back have expressed a lot of happiness with what they’re seeing so far, and being able to come back to the central location of the library.”

The single biggest problem since reopening has been some growing pains with respect to the library and the Town of Morinville’s drop box. Some patrons are dropping returns in the Town’s box rather than the relocated library drop box. As problems go, it is far from being a major one.

[SUBHEAD] Solid summer of programs

But not all problems were as minor as drop box confusion. With the library’s popular Summer Reading Program scheduled for a mid-July start, there was some concern earlier this summer as to whether the facility would be ready. Those concerns quickly went away and the library’s children programming has been operating out of the new larger programming room since July 16. Cramp said it has been a success thus far.

“It’s been very busy since the first day of the program,” she said. “We’ve already had crafts last week which were well attended. We’ve had lots of people coming into the counter to sign out the books for the kids. They’ve all said they are really, really happy with the program and the program coordinators.”

Children’s entertainment has also gone full steam ahead. Musical duo Ernestine Hatpin and the Prairie Dogs performed Wednesday afternoon to an audience of approximately 35 children and their parents. Next up is magician Brian Lehr, who is set to perform at the library Aug. 15.

Not only has the library expanded its services over those offered at the Parish Hall, they are now back to full regular hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

[SUBHEAD] Full services within a month

Although hours are at full service, the space patrons have to walk around during those hours is presently limited. Cramp said she is anticipating being able to throw back the curtains by the end of August. Just what lies beyond those blue curtains and craft- paper-covered windows remains to be seen, but library staff and board are certain residents and patrons will be pleased.

Cramp said the library is grateful to the Town of Morinville for the additional space, modernization of the facility, and for a $50,000 grant that allowed the library to buy new shelves for its expanding collection of titles. Additional support from Alliance Pipe Line, The Father’s House Christian Fellowship, The Rotary Club and the Friends of the Morinville Public Library have allowed the library to purchase the equipment and furnishings necessary to let it meet the needs of a community that has grown substantially in the past five years. Additionally, more than 60 small business and individuals have supported the renovations and expansions so far by donating $100 to the library’s bronze book program.

While the financial support has been truly appreciated, Cramp and her staff are also appreciative and humbled by the support and understanding of the patrons. “Our regular patrons who have gone through all this process with us have been absolutely fantastic,” she said. “We’re very grateful that we have such a strong community that supports us and we just want to thank them for that.”

Above: Ernestine Hatpin and the Prairie Dogs perform in the library’s programming room July 25. The Summer Reading Program has been very active through its first to weeks of operation.

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