The Key Center Pierce County Library has been back open since Feb. 4 following 10 weeks of closure for renovations, but the library officially celebrated its reopening on Saturday, with an open house to show off the new space.
“It’s just fabulous to be able to welcome the community back in,” said Sally Porter Smith, the Pierce County Library System’s customer experience director.
Porter Smith joined the Key Center Library’s staff and dozens of community members for a reception that included refreshments, music from local bluegrass band Rusty Roots and demonstrations from magician Jeff Evans.
The library closed in November for renovations to improve both space usage and technology. The revamped building, Porter Smith said, allows for more room to grow the library’s collection, and more space for computers and sitting areas.
“What we’ve done is take this library and use every inch of its space for our patrons,” Porter Smith said.
The former 150-square-foot lobby now holds new bookshelves, including books for sale to benefit the Friends of the Key Center Library, as well as a large “movie machine,” a storage device for distributing the library’s newly expanded DVD collection.
The meeting room that used to abut the lobby has been adapted into a larger multipurpose space that can be reconfigured to meet the requirements of different gatherings. New computers and tablets will be available for use in the room, as well as a large high-definition television and a block set for children.
Computer classes, block play programs to teach math skills and film screenings are among the types of events Porter Smith said the library hopes to host in the new multipurpose room.
“We really wanted to create a space that’s able to accommodate a lot of uses,” she said.
Elsewhere in the library, shelf space has been expanded and chair and table space has grown as well. A new teen computer area has also been added. All told, the new space barely resembles the old library, said librarian Rosina Vertz.
“We hardly remember what it used to look like,” Vertz said.
Construction on the building was finished ahead of schedule, but the library’s staff and much of its collection was stationed at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in the meantime, operating out of a bookmobile and with some computer access inside the center.
“It felt a little bit like camping while working,” Vertz said.
Porter Smith said that the staff was thrilled to be back inside their building, and to be able to take advantage of its upgrades.
The new-and-improved library has seen a positive response from the community as well, Vertz said, noting that patrons often tell her that they appreciate the larger space. That seemed to be the case Saturday, as many members of the community got their first look inside the remodeled building.
“It’s a lot better,” said 14-year-old Corey Kreis, perched on a chair in the library’s new seating area. “It’s just a lot more spacious, and there’s more room to walk around or to sit down and read.”
“It just seems like there’s a better flow to it now,” said Scott Beard, who lives just a mile from the library. Beard moved to the Key Peninsula from Alabama, and said that he had been struck by how much better the libraries were than in his home state.
“I love having something like this so close to where I live. It’s very valuable,” he said.
Alice Kinerk explored the multipurpose room with her daughter, Lucy, whom she brings to the library once a week. They had been visiting the bookmobile for the past few months.
“We liked the library bus, but the selection is so much better here now,” Kinerk said. “And we’re excited to check out the computer programs for the kids.”
Members of the Friends of the Key Center Library, including secretary Karen Lovett and newsletter editor Neal Van Der Voorn, were stationed near the library’s door, eager to tell guests about the fundraising group’s efforts to aid the building’s renovation and future library programs. The Friends collected $38,000 in donations for the library improvements, which included funding for computers, the block play program and new chairs and tables.
Van Der Voorn, a retired hospital librarian who worked for MultiCare Health System, said that the improvements, especially the increased access to new technology, will help the library better fulfill its mission.
“You go to any library and more and more of its content is digital – books, journals and magazine articles are all on the web. But there’s still a significant portion of people without personal computers, who need to come to the library to access that material,” Van Der Voorn said. “A public library being able to provide that is still extremely important.”