April 23, 2014 - Beginning Monday, April 28, various sections of the Oxford Public Library will be off-limits to patrons at different times as the facility undergoes a renovation project costing roughly $350,000.
But rest assured, the library as a whole will remain open and functioning.
"We don't plan on closing at all during the project," said Library Director Bryan Cloutier.
The project, which is scheduled to be complete by May 27, includes re-carpeting all of the building's public areas, implementing a new checkout system for materials and renovating the lobby area to make it more efficient and user-friendly.
Cloutier explained the library will borrow $350,000 from its $1.4 million fund balance (or reserves) to pay for the project.
"We're investing in the future of our building and in the future of the taxpayers' investment in this building," Cloutier said.
The lobby's current circulation desk will be replaced with two new, custom-made desks.
One will contain the new "express checkout" system, which consists of three new self-check stations that will enable patrons to check out materials without having to rely on staff members to do it for them.
As part of the project, all of the library's nearly 94,000 circulating items had radio frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in them. Each chip contains electronically-stored information that can be wirelessly transmitted to the reader at the self-check station.
The new RFID system and self-check stations will allow the library to operate its support services department with less staff, according to Cloutier.
He explained the support services department recently lost two staff members due to "natural attrition" and there are "no immediate plans to replace those individuals in the near future."
The other desk will function as a welcome desk where patrons can pay fines, ask questions and deal with issues related to their account. Library staff will have the ability to check out materials at the welcome desk whenever the need arises.
Cloutier said both desks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and be "more user-friendly" for everyone from children to adults.
New and expanded shelving for items placed on hold by patrons and for items sold by the Oxford Public Library Friends will also be part of the renovated lobby as well as new security gates that operate as part of the RFID system.
Originally, the project was just going to encompass implementing the RFID system and renovating the lobby, a total cost of approximately $212,000.
But given the carpet's condition throughout the building, Cloutier said replacing it was deemed a "necessity."
"It's part of maintaining the building," he said. "There are huge lines of carpet that are completely missing where threads have come up. It's just worn. When you have a building that sees nearly 300,000 people on an annual basis, you're going to wear out after time."
Cloutier explained it was decided to re-carpet the library at the same time as the lobby renovation in order to get everything done at once, so as to minimize any inconvenience or disruption to patrons.
The project will begin Monday, April 28 in the adult services department, which will operate under "closed stacks" status until May 6.
When an area is labeled closed stacks, it's off-limits to the public. Materials can still be accessed, but they can only be retrieved for the public by library staff members.
The adult computer lab will be closed from May 5-8 and the main lobby will be closed beginning May 8.
During the lobby's closure, the library's main entrance and checkout desk will be relocated to the South Tower doors near the Rotary Community Room.
From May 12-15, the youth services department will be operating under closed stacks status.
On May 19, most of the library's collections and computer labs will return to normal operations. Patrons will begin using the new lobby and self-check stations on May 26.
On May 26, the South Tower area and public restrooms will be closed. Public access to the staff restroom will be available as needed.
The above schedule is subject to change.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.