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Geneva library makes use of limited space

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(Rob Winner - rwinner@kcchronicle.com)
Emily Thompson (left) scoots in her chair so Nancy Bell can make her way to her desk in the youth services department in the Geneva Public Library.

GENEVA – Youth services librarian Carol Shaw remembers that during story time, the program assistant – whose office is a tiny nook hidden behind partitions – accidentally crumpled a piece of paper.

“One of the moms looked up like she thought it was a mouse,” Shaw said.

It wasn’t a mouse but program assistant Jay Holtaway laboring in near silence.

Library officials partitioned the extra space so the program assistant could have a desk to organize crafts and programs, among her other duties.

Tucking the program assistant in a room’s edge is just one of the many make-do efforts Geneva Public Library officials have done to squeeze every bit of usable space. When not in use for stories or crafts, the story room also serves as a book-weeding center for those being removed from the collection.

The board will be seeking requests for proposals from contractors to move adult services into the former computer room and to take out a wall between two small offices to make a medium-sized public meeting room. The computers were moved to the regular adult section of the library, as other areas were adjusted and pushed around to make room.

The library budget has $300,000 set aside for the project, which officials expect to be completed this year. The work is a stop-gap until a new library is built, possibly in 10 years, officials said.

In the meantime, the adult services department requires more room.

Thirteen staffers and a handful of volunteers jockey to use four computers on any given day.

This department, as well as youth services, is so packed no one can take a step in any direction without bumping into a chair, a book cart, counter or another person.

“We’ve got people tripled up, actually,” said Debbie Walsh, head of adult services. “We occasionally have volunteers, and they’re only here for an hour or two. They need that machine immediately so then everybody has to step back, stop what they’re doing and find another project. They’re juggling their time, but it could certainly be more efficient if they could their job in a more orderly fashion. Our problem is, we have no work space.”

Library Director Matt Teske said other library departments that are scattered will be moved to where the adult services workroom is now, such as graphics, automation and outreach.

“We will bring people who are spread out all over in corners in here so they can work together efficiently,” Library Board President Esther Barclay said.

While the youth department is also crowded, there are no immediate plans for relief because they do not want to cover up the murals in the children’s section, Barclay said.

The library currently has one study room. It used to have three, but two were converted into offices, Teske said, one for an assistant director and another for a graphics designer. Both will be moving to adult services when they move to the former computer room. The wall between them will be knocked down, and the two offices will become a medium-sized room for people to use.

“All we have now is that little study room and the big meeting room down in the basement and nothing in between,” Teske said. “I think this is going to help a lot to utilize the space.”

In its effort to create more space for its collection, officials removed the second-floor display cabinets. The area now holds reserved items for pickup and a single self-checkout machine. In the adult non-fiction room, its historic collection was moved to another wall of the library, while that space was converted into a book sorting alcove.

Library book stacks have also been added onto so often, there is no more room to add. Teske said the library almost has to discard an old book for every new one added to the collection.

Barclay said the building is designed to support a community of 25,000, but now is supporting just under 30,000 patrons. On Saturdays, as many as 1,000 people use the facility.

“At full build-out, that could be 40,000 people,” Barclay said. “But right now, we do not know what is going to happen.”

Four years ago, the plan was to seek a referendum in 2011 for a new building. But with the housing market and economy so shaky, Barclay said, a new building is on hold until things get better.

It does not stop the district’s need to secure another downtown site, she said, but it put the timetable further into the future.

“We are faced with an uncertain economy,” Barclay said. “People are nervous and do not want us spending money, so we are working very hard to utilize every inch of that building we can.”

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