Books are returning to the shelves in Austin Memorial Library in Cleveland as months of renovations are finally coming to an end. The library will have a fresh look when patrons return in October. Gone are the old wobbly, wooden shelves and outdated décor – replaced with stronger steel shelving systems and fresh carpet, paint and furniture.
“We were closed for COVID-19 and made good use of the time,” said Library Director Mary Merrill Cohn.
The project was planned well in advance of the pandemic. The $200,000 renovation project was approved by Cleveland City Council last year. When the pandemic hit, the library project was stalled temporarily when vendors and manufacturers shut down their operations.
“When libraries could start reopening is about the same time that manufacturers could start reopening, so that caused some delays in when our chairs and shelves were going to arrive,” Cohn said.
Once they arrived, the project began moving forward quickly under the guidance of Trinity Design Group, formerly known as Trinity Library Design. The company offers turnkey operations for library renovations, though in Cleveland, library staff are so eager to reopen they are helping to restock the shelves.
The footprint of the library sections is the same as before. People with an eye for detail might notice the subtle changes in the carpeting that mark the sections. The adult fiction, paperback and large-print sections are to the right of the entrance and the children’s and teen’s sections are to the left. New seating has been adding throughout the library, along with new tables and workstations. Among the new items are individual workstations and wireless access points.
“The wireless access points have been added throughout the library. This was funded by a grant through E-Rate,” said Cohn. “It made the WiFi stronger, so patrons can use it inside the library or they can sit in their cars and access it, if that’s what they choose to do.”
The library has also added Spanish and Middle Eastern sections.
All totaled, there are roughly 48,000 titles on the shelves at Austin Memorial Library. Thousands of other titles are available by E-book or through the inner-library consortium that gives Austin Memorial Library patrons access to e-books and print books at other libraries within its consortium. Library members also can check out materials for research and study needs through TexShare, a program of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Cohn said a library membership is a good deal since it is free to every resident of Cleveland and costs only $10 a year for people outside the city. It is also free to students 18 years and younger, people 65 and older, disabled people with proof of their disability, and for employees of school districts, regardless of if that job is pushing a broom or teaching in a classroom.
Currently there are about 5,000 memberships at Austin Memorial Library. In non-pandemic years, the library sees roughly 100,000 patrons a year.
The library is expected to reopen in the next three weeks. Once the actual date has been determined, information will be posted on Bluebonnet News’ Facebook page.
Currently, the library is offering curbside service.
For more information, call the Library at 281-592-3920. Austin Memorial Library is located at 220 S. Bonham St., Cleveland, and can be found online at http://www.austinmemlib.org/