If you haven't been to the Brainerd Public Library in awhile, librarian Marta Mersereau suggests this winter may be a good time for a second look.
"We want to capture the 90 percent of people who think libraries are a good idea, but who don't use it," Mersereau said.
The library will close for remodeling Jan. 23-28. When patrons return they will see new carpeting and a change in how the library information is presented. Mersereau stood at the library entrance noting newcomers may not have any idea where the children's book section is or that the library has books on compact disc and cassette. Signs will change that. Bookshelves will be moved to make it easier for patrons to find what they are looking for and see what the library has to offer.
The Kitchigami Regional Library System provides service in Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Wadena counties. The Brainerd library serves the largest population center, but how funding was divided between the counties was an issue. Until recently the majority of funding was collected from the most populated counties - Cass and Crow Wing - and pooled for all.
Now money collected by the individual counties will be used there, meaning the more than $400,000 budgeted by Crow Wing County in 2006 will be used within the county.
With the funding change, Mersereau said the Brainerd library will hire two reference librarians - one for the adult and young adult section and one for the children's side. The reference staff mem bers will be able to help people in using the computer and the Internet, as well as other library resources and databases.
"This will be a boon year to us," Mersereau said. She joined the Brainerd library in July.
A large-print section will be moved closer to the library's front entrance. The adult section reference librarian will be readily visible from the main entrance to be more accessible so people will feel encouraged to ask questions. Mersereau said the circulation counter can be imposing for library users with a question, particularly if there is a checkout line. Mersereau said they also realize they need to improve programming for seniors.
Will be closed for remodeling Jan. 23-28.
Has 22,000 library card holders who filled out cards in Brainerd.
Has 20,000 checkouts per month.
Has 14,000 people in the library per month.
Has 2,200 Internet users each month.
Hosts 50 meetings in a month with about 600 people.
Has 40 volunteers working 102 hours in a month.
Has online access where people can browse the catalog or reserve books by going to http://krls.org.
Seniors and teenagers are the two largest demographic groups using the library. With additional Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation computer donations, the library will have eight new computers and four others with Internet access. Five computers provide access to the library's catalog and database.
The library has books, videos, music, audio books, computers with Internet access, magazines, fax service, practice tests for exams, reading programs and meeting rooms. The library's computers have word processing and spreadsheet programs.
Marian Ridge, Kitchigami Regional Library System director, said the library has an on-demand program to let library users help determine what books are purchased. She said the system was developed in 2005 and is cutting down the wait for books in high demand by at least a few days.
Ridge said the funding redistribution means Brainerd will be able to develop the types of services a community of its size should have with reference help and enhanced programming for children, seniors and young adults.
A 2002 regionwide survey by the Kitchigami Regional Library Board had respondents listing four top services - reading books for pleasure, being able to order books from other libraries, reference books and help with research from a librarian. The survey said library users found the building attractive, but had concerns about the friendliness of the staff. Additional computers with Internet access were requested along with more current books on the shelves.
"I hope people come back and give the library another chance," Mersereau said. "We really hope to be ready for a new year, a new era in March. I would really love to encourage people to give us another try."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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