When the new Columbia Public Library opened a year ago today, the staff expected a surge of interest — and they got it.
“That initial rush was kind of like being at McDonald’s when the school bus comes in — only on a larger scale,” library spokeswoman Kris Farris said. “We all just had to kind of come together and say, ‘How do we get this done?’ ”
During the first three months, employees who didn’t normally shelve books pitched in to help manage the huge number of returns and new library cards were issued at an unprecedented rate.
As the library marks its first anniversary today, staff members continue to marvel at the continually full drop boxes and other indicators such as circulation and the number of questions fielded by the reference desk.
“All of our numbers have gone up dramatically,” Farris said. “We anticipated an increase in the beginning and then expected it to level off.”
The library is still issuing more than 1,000 cards per month, nearly double the number issued before the new library opened.
The spacious interior and variety of collections and programs aren’t the only reasons for the $22 million library’s popularity.
More than ever, patrons are taking advantage of computer-based classes as well as Internet access.
Since it opened, the library increased its number of public computers from 28 to 65, according to computer technician Pam Vogt.
Cheryl Duve mainly uses the library for computer access to help determine what she’ll study when she goes to college. “I’m more interested in using the library than I was before,” she said. “It’s way bigger, more organized and has a lot more computers.”
Angela Mustard, a clerk working in the children’s services, said she sees a lot of familiar faces in addition to people who come from out of town and local residents who bring family members who are visiting. “There are new people coming all the time,” Mustard said.
Sujin Kim made her first visit to the library on Saturday with her 2- and
6-year-old sons. “It is more comfortable to bring my baby here than to the old library,” she said. “The place is bigger and there are baby toys here. It has been nice. I’ll come again.”
Retired couple Don and Mary Barry, also first-time visitors, were browsing the library’s movie selection. They later checked out CDs with music by Anne Murray, Merle Haggard and Ray Charles.
“I had no idea it was so big and had such a diverse collection,” Don Berry said.
Some residents who live close to the library, however, are not as pleased.
Robert E. Harris, who lives in the second house west of the library, says the site is too small for the building. Harris said his house vibrates when the library’s air conditioner is on.
Although the library installed acoustic panels to muffle the noise, Harris said the vibrations remain a problem. “The whirring is less loud but the vibrating is as bad as ever,” he said.
Late-night illumination from library lighting also bothers Harris and his wife. Harris said the library has been better about turning the lights off late at night, but “they have been inconsistent.”
Library Director Melissa Carr said the library “wants to be a good neighbor and resolve any issues we can. That is why over the past year we have met with the neighbors on several occasions and have investigated their concerns.”
Carey Kaltenbach, who also lives near the library, is not having problems with noise or vibrations although he feels strongly about some aspects of the architecture.
“I hate the front’s doors — they look like doors that belong on a warehouse,” he said.
He does, however, enjoy the abstract sculptures that loom above the entrance.
“The building would look a bit drab without them,” Kaltenbach said.
Melissa Tague, who regularly visits the library with her two sons, is impressed with the new library’s acoustics as well as the overall design.
“It took a little getting used to, but it’s a beautiful building inside and out,” she said.
She believes, however, that the library could have saved money by utilizing more of the old building rather than demolishing it.
“Their choice of the word ‘remodeling’ is a big farce from a practicality standpoint,” she said.
The library continues to offer new services such as a concession that will offer Lakota Coffee Co. beverages and snacks in the lobby this fall.
A second bookmobile service that serves low-income youth at Bear Creek, the J.W. “Blind” Boone Center and the Community Recreation Center went on its first run Tuesday.