John Rieping/The Madera Tribune
The Madera County Library’s new reception desk displays colors from the county’s logo.
Infrequent visitors to the Madera library may be surprised by a brighter and lower circulation desk as well as new carpeting, wall paint, furniture and layout.
They might also notice fewer book shelves and more sunlight — all thanks to a recently completed renovation that began Jan. 22 and ended last week.
“We wanted to open it up,” explained County Librarian Patrick Fitzgerald. “We’ve had windows looking out onto a courtyard here for almost 50 years and you wouldn’t know it because they were obscured.”
Workers increased the visibility of the courtyard and West 5th Street by rearranging and reducing shelving in the adult and children’s wings of the library as well as by removing a 20-foot-long display board over the windows in the children section.
“We definitely eliminated a lot of books,” Fitzgerald said. “But we chose what to let go of very intentionally.”
The library weeded out books that were in poor condition or were rarely checked out.
“We’ve let go of a lot of material that just hasn’t moved for us in a long time and it’s still taking up space,” he said. “In the children’s area, ... sometimes you have the opposite problem. Sometimes the material has been moving but it’s just beat to heck and it needs to be let go because of that. In that case, maybe you’re looking to re-purchase.”
Those exiled books weren’t indiscriminately thrown away however. Some have been given out for free to the community, said Reference Librarian Mary Jo Lawrence. The Friends of the Madera County Library will also host a “huge book sale coming up the first Saturday in May.”
Other books went to Better World Books, which she explained “is a company that will take old library books and purchase them back for certain amounts, and then they can regive them out to other areas for areas that don’t have a lot of material.”
Lastly some technical texts were “just so old and out of date” they weren’t “relevant any more. So that’s the kind of stuff you just have to let go. But part of what libraries do is a weeding process. It’s something that’s constantly having to happen no matter what.”
The upgrade has added to the library as well. The children’s section now has new furniture — such as picture book bins — that better fits smaller readers as well as a black chalk wall, a storytime area, and new books.
“It was worth the months of inconvenience, because it’s open,” said Yvette Herrera, children’s services coordinator. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback from the kids. They’re like, “Wow.’ Parents are saying it’s more open space. It’s nice. They like it.”
Once limited to both sides of a long bookcase, the young adult section has been expanded to an area with tables and seating in a corner of the adult section.
“We were doing well in serving children and serving adults, but” there wasn’t a space “for those ... in the middle — a place to go to keep them reading,” said Lawrence.
The revamped layout of the library makes it possible for hosting programs for various age groups in the areas dedicated to them, Fitzgerald said, “instead of being pinned down ... in the meeting room.”
A $5,000 state library grant to reimagine its public space inspired the project, which had the financial support of the city and county of Madera as well as the Friends of the Madera County Library, which funded the new furnishings and shelving for the young adult area.
“What this project largely does is lay a foundation,” said Fitzgerald. “But with that foundation now is the time when we’re going to jump a bit, and we’re going to try to increase our programming, especially targeting teens, which we have not been programming towards hardly at all… (The library is) still going to be about books but it’s also going to add the right technology and the right programming into that mix.”
The library is at 121 North G St. For information or to volunteer, call 675-7871 or visit the website at http://maderacountylibrary.org.