Library expansion will help community continue to prosper

Kolleen Taylor, Director, Bertha Bartlett Public Library
Special to the Herald
This rendering shows the plan for the Bertha Bartlett Public Library renovation.

2022 is here and we are hopeful! As many of the religious figures, motivational speakers and editorialists have addressed, we need to set aside the many differences that have divided us, and work together. We are striving to see the hope, peace, forgiveness and love as we look at our world as one where there is more good than bad, with a glass more than half full every day. 

As we enter this year, we have a full plate of things that we hope will make the world a little bit better. Last week a letter came out from the Bertha Bartlett Public Library Foundation, which was informing the Story City community of the upcoming expansion project of the library, and asking for this community to help with financial support. This is a project that we have known we were heading toward for many years and it’s the result of the wonderful, heavy use of our library

Just this past week, the Washington Post published an editorial proclaiming that the “Golden Age of Libraries dawns again.” In the article, it cites many of the libraries around the world who have met the 21st century challenges and exceeded expectations. Many of these amazing libraries have addressed some of the needs we have also experienced.  

Over the past 15 years, we have watched the many changes in technology in addition to the way the library is used. The number of programs we offered more than doubled, and as these became more regular, the attendance from the very young to adults also increased.

The more we offered, the more we grew, and the need for space just to allow us to provide this service became an issue we had to address. Making most of our space multi-functional worked for a very long time, but eventually we had to move more of our programs off-site to accommodate the numbers. 

Last year and even this coming summer, we had to make plans in the parks and in the recreation centers to accommodate the numbers of youth attending our special summer programs, which usually drew from 80 to 100 participants. When this happens, it alters the patterns and comfort levels of our patrons and our children, and there is a disconnect with the program and the library. We are struggling to re-establish this connection.

This was all a result impact by COVID, but it changed other user patterns also. The need for space for the small group meetings, online training, Zoom job interviews, job coaching, online tutoring and an increase in the number of people working from their homes has made us look at our space differently. Requests have often been beyond our capacity and we have used our Annex for unemployment claims, small meetings and as practice areas for our young people working on projects or performances. 

As we saw these needs increase, we also started seeing more of our community who were working from home. When their Internet or printers failed, when downloads didn’t work, or when new devices were purchased, they came to us. Many have moved to wireless printing, and our copier was set up to do this, so that even when the library was locked to the public, we had patrons printing to our copier from their cars to allow them to function.

So the Bertha Bartlett Library Foundation has taken their responsibility as a 504A Non-profit very seriously as they take the lead in helping raise funds to provide the space needed for our future. As books remain an integral part of our library, we also need to marry the space needs for other use so that our community can continue to prosper for years to come!