The LaGrange County Library is dedicated to providing the best information and services possible, for both education and recreation, to the citizens of LaGrange County. Therefore, there are numerous reasons why the library feels the need to take on such an ambitious project as building a new facility. Some of the most urgent of these reasons are listed below:
Although the present building has the history of being a Carnegie Library, its original design did not include access for handicapped individuals, easy access for those bearing large quantities of books (teachers, new book orders, etc.) or space for technological services that have, in recent years, become in great demand worldwide. There are also physical problems with the current building such as leaking during hard rains. There is no room for storage or working space away from the desk for the staff
A new library would
be required to allow all patrons to have full access to the building. Teachers
and homeschoolers would find it easier to borrow large amounts for their
classrooms if they didn't have to negotiate numerous stairs and a series
of turns. A new library would also be able to provide more computer services
and free Internet access for the public, and would better support the technology
needed to automate the entire Library system. The result would be the ability
to more efficiently locate items for patrons and to better keep track of
those items, whether they are at the main library, the bookmobile, or one
of the branches.
Currently, the library staff is "weeding" the collection three years back. This means that, in order to make room for new titles, if a book has not been checked out in the last three years, it is pulled to be sold in the library book sale. As recently as ten years ago, the staff would occasionally weed the collection ten years back. Now we are forced to constantly weed three years back, which means that "old" books--some of which are less than five years old--must be pulled as fast as new books come in, just so we will be able to fit all the books on the shelves. To remain current, the library cannot stop buying new material or slow the rate of new books coming in. And of course, we cannot withdraw the classics, like Shakespeare, Dickens, or Twain, whether they've been checked out recently or not. In addition, since the library serves a large Amish population, it is important that many older titles remain on the shelves, as these are the books they prefer. The result is a limited amount of shelf space that continues to shrink.
A new facility would give the library immediate relief by providing space for the current collection and would be built with growth in mind to provide shelf space for years to come.
At this time, the children's department is located on the fifth level of the current building. This means that parents must carry small children who are too young to negotiate the steps along with their books, puppets, diaper bags, strollers, etc. We also have several handicapped young patrons who must be helped or carried up the stairs. The library also serves many schools whose teachers check out large numbers of books. These teachers must carry box loads of books up and down stairs with each visit.
Children are often in danger of falling down the steps (in fact, it has already happened).
Because of the limited space of the children's department, older children who wish to use the library to study have no place to go. There is no room for tables or study areas for the children to use.
Also, the Children's department has no space to call its own for presenting programs and storytimes. At this time, the children's librarian must share the community room which is sometimes unavailable and during programs that draw large crowds, the current community room is simply too small.
A new library could be designed with these needs in mind. The children's department could be placed on the ground floor with easier access for parents and teachers. The library could have a room designated especially for children's activities, as well as an area designated for older children's use.
Presently the LaGrange County Library remains unautomated. This means that patrons must use the outdated card catalog system to search for books in our collection. The children's card catalog does not have a subject index; therefore, if a patron does not know the author or exact title of a book, it is almost impossible to find in the file. At this time, there is no way to tell what books a person has out or when they are due unless the file is checked manually, card by card. In addition, the current system uses a manual book charger. Since most libraries are already automated it is almost impossible to find companies who provide the cards and equipment for this method. In fact, Gaylord, the company we are currently using for this service, is discontinuing its book charger services. We are currently searching for a company to provide us with library cards but have been unsuccessful so far. The current building does not have the space or capacity for the wiring needed to be automated.
An automated library will allow patrons to search by subject--or even by a single word. It will allow the librarians to track the exact location of every book and we will be able to tell a patron about any books he has out, when they are due, and whether he has an unpaid fine. People with expired library cards or fines will no longer be able to "slip through the system", making it easier to keep our records current and collect on overdues. Automation will also link the branches, as well as the bookmobile, with the main library. Automation would also allow for a security system to be in place to keep items from being stolen.
The Genealogy room at the LaGrange County Library is currently located on the lowest level of the building. This room tends to be cold and dank and has no room to work in, yet it is the room most frequented by out-of-town visitors who come to do genealogy research. Also, because of the location of this room, there is no way for the librarians to supervise the area, so even though the room is locked when not in use, some historical documents have been vandalized and even stolen by persons using the room.
In a new building, the Genealogy department could be placed in a more protected area. Not only would this protect the historical documents kept there, but it would allow patrons to have access to more help from librarians who are nearby, while working in a nicer environment.