Beautiful New Addition Brings Nation’s 1st Public Library into 21st Century

J.D. O’Gara
Franklin Public Library Celebrates Completion of Construction Project
Issue Date: 
December, 2017
Article Body: 

It might have taken about six months longer than projected to complete, but good things come to those who wait. On Sunday, November 6th, the Franklin Public Library officially welcomed community members to celebrate the opening of its new addition.
“I give the library board credit for their vision in the strategic plan they put forth,” says Franklin Public Library Director Felicia Oti. “It’s all spelled out in the goals, and that vision has been realized, of providing comfortable, welcoming facilities for every age group in the community. Vision without funding is just that, and this is where we acknowledge the Town Council for providing funding for the project.”
The new wing of the library is complete with two study rooms, a second-floor conference room equipped with a wall-mounted LCD TV for presentations, a new area for books with mobile shelf units, a Friends of the Franklin Library community room, wired for artists to display their art with movable glass walls, two new restrooms, a beautiful new staircase, a new reference section with new media and large print, several comfortable, soft seating areas, new computers and a whole new section for children’s books.
These new additions made way for updates to the older section of the library. In addition to beautiful new, energy efficient and updated lighting that highlights architecture and paintings of the old wing, as well as makes the space more user-friendly, rooms in the original building have been repurposed now that the addition has made more room. The old children’s area is now a teen space, and an archive room on that side has been modified with climate control, to keep materials from falling apart, as well as a new microfilm scanner that allows users to manipulate and save images to a flash drive. Another update is the addition of a Bibliotecha self-check machine, that will allow patrons to check out, return and renew books on their own, as well as pay fines.
Anyone who thinks that libraries aren’t being used would be proven wrong at the Franklin Public Library. “We have hundreds of people coming in every day. Our services are evolving to meet the needs of our patrons and to keep up with new technology,” says Kim Shipala, Assistant Library Director. Although the public library’s mission hasn’t changed, the way patrons receive that information is constantly changing. Shipala has seen a demand for Ebooks rise, and the library subscribes to a number of popular databases. Patrons also have access to job search and training sites with their library cards, as well as online magazine subscriptions and Hoopla, through which patrons can download Ebooks, movies, TV shows and even comic books. Patrons can also take out Hotspots.
With free Wifi and added outlets, patrons can plug in their own devices, or they can use the new computer lab with the latest edition of Microsoft Office, says Shipala.
“Since they’ve been open, the study rooms have been used every day, almost constantly,” says Shipala, who adds that study rooms and the conference room can be reserved online through the library’s website link. What’s more, the business center will allow patrons to copy, print, fax and scan.
Caleigh Keating, Youth Services Librarian, says her areas are always bustling with patrons.
“An example to illustrate how we use space and how we serve all different kinds of people, is in the space of last 48 hours, we had an after-school LEGO program for school age kids, a tween “Book Bytes” group, this morning we had tummy time for babies and we do an after-school ‘crafternoon,’” says Keating.
Programs are constantly being added due to a high demand, says Keating, many of them fun, social events that bring community members together.
“People are dying for contact,” says Oti. The library, she says, helps them “feel they are part of the community.” Oti says she sees a growing demand for a revival of the English as a Second Language program, and sees a great turnout for author talks and special topic lectures and discussions.
“And everything we do here is free and is open to all,” says Oti. “It’s such a bargain, if you look at all library budgets it’s usually 1% or under of the town allocation –but people forget that, because of the nature of library services, the economic impact is not always apparent.” One example she uses is that of a student who came in to use Rosetta Stone to learn and test out of a required language class for college, thus saving the cost of that course.
“In summary, it’s a whole host of programs and services we provide the community,” says Oti. “Where else would you find such a range, in one building, and all for free?”