GENEVA – The new Geneva Public Library opened Monday with as much grand opening fanfare as the coronavirus pandemic would allow: 50 people in masks allowed in by appointment each hour.
But Executive Director Christine Lazaris said when each group comes in, it is a grand opening for them – even without champagne, speeches and ribbon cuttings.
“We get a series of grand openings every hour on the hour every day,” Lazaris said.
Because as each person comes in, the universal reaction is “Wow.”
“We are just so excited to open this building and turn it over to the public – the rightful owners – the residents of Geneva Public Library District,” Lazaris said. “We can’t wait for everyone to come in and see their new library – the champagne is virtual.”
Voters approved a referendum to build the $21.8 million library at the former site of the Sixth Street School, 227 S. Seventh St. At 57,000 square feet, it is more than double the size of the former facility at 127 James St. It serves more than 30,000 people in the library district.
Lazaris and library spokeswoman Paula Krapf gave a tour Wednesday to a reporter and photographer.
The first floor includes areas for sitting – either alone or in groups – and displays a timeline of the history of the Geneva Public Library.
“The Geneva History Museum was a tremendous help in putting that together,” Krapf said. “It was really wonderful to have access to their expertise. They had a sneak-peek tour of the library and I think they were really amazed at how nicely it came together.”
The new facility has a drive-up window to drop off materials, and pick up pre-arranged holds during business hours – something the public wanted in the new library.
They also wanted parking, more room and to keep the fireplace.
And so the fireplace’s gas flame still burns bright behind glass, which can be seen inside or outside on a patio on the second floor.
“It is so gratifying to see people using their library in all the ways it has been talked about for so long,” Krapf said. “The community telling us what they needed, the architects turning that into the design, and of course the final product. That has been the most amazing thing.”
The first floor offers an elevator, but also a wide sweeping staircase that curves its way upward.
The children’s section, which serves children from birth to eighth grade – is not only wide open, but hosts nooks and corners where young readers can sit comfortably.This area has wide aisles between stacks with whimsical cut-out designs of buildings, trees, suns and windmills on the ends.
Krapf said they represent elements of downtown Geneva, connecting the new library to the neighborhood.
A fenced-in outside play area features an old-fashioned hopscotch painted on the sidewalk – offering 21st century children another generation’s favorite playground game.
It also has separate rooms for programs, such as story time – when groups can safely get together again, a corner for the imaginative play for the youngest children and a middle school area where older children can gather.
The first floor also offers a meeting room area for the library board and an area with a kitchen for cooking demonstrations – something else the public wanted the new library to have.
“We’re thrilled to have people here, yet obviously we are limiting numbers,” Krapf said. “We’re to make sure that everybody can (do) social-distancing.”
The second floor gives an almost panoramic view of tree tops, creating a sensation of being in a tree house. It offers two outdoor patios where patrons can sit together and have a gathering as well as a view.
A common theme throughout involves tables, chairs and gathering areas where library patrons can either be together in small groups or work solo.
Furniture moved from the old library’s Collaboration Zone have a new home here. These included tables with chairs, stools at counters and booths where people can meet and collaborate.
The second floor also offers public-use computers, a computer lab for technology classes and equipment rental to make podcast videos in a studio with a green screen right there, or to rent to take home.
Called Tech Commons, it includes 3D printing services, and other electronics for borrowing, such as laptops, projectors, iPads and cameras.
It also has rooms people can reserve and a large meeting room that can be subdivided into two smaller rooms with a divider.
The second floor also offers a full wall of book club books for the library’s 80 book clubs.
And even if people aren’t in a book club, Krapf said, patrons generally like to see what book clubs are reading and check those books out, too.
The library’s website, gpld.org offers a section on book clubs with a list of titles and a book club newsletter.
Its DVD section even has television and cable series seasons wrapped together and labeled “Binge Box.”
Geneva resident Jennifer Mamminga and her daughter, Amber, 13, said they were enjoying their visit to the new library.
“This is beautiful,” Jennifer Mamminga said. “The building is nice and open and I love how there’s places go to outdoors and everything is really accessible. I’m really excited.”
“I like how it’s big and open,” Amber Mamminga said.
As Krapf was commenting on the pile of books a young patron was taking home, he also praised the new library.
“Yesterday, unprompted, a little boy said to me, ‘This is so much better than the old library.’ I did ask him why,” Krapf said. “He said, ’It’s not just bigger, there’s just more of everything.’”
The public can sign up for a time period to visit the library at www.signupgenius.com.