Library Friends give $35K opening day gift

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 01:21 PM

The Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library has made a $35,000 opening day gift to help the library staff prepare for the reopening of the library in the spring.
The library is currently located at University Mall while the permanent building in Pritchard Park undergoes a major renovation and expansion.
Of the $35,000 gift, $20,000 has been earmarked for a mural by local artist Michael Brown in the children’s area while the remaining $15,000, requested by library staffers, will be used to buy book carts, a wheel chair, baskets for patrons and other items not covered in the existing budget.
The gift is in addition to a $150,000 opening day gift the Friends made in September for furniture and equipment in the children’s area of the library.
“It’s going to make the difference between a bare bones children’s library and an incredibly good children’s library,” said Martha Brunstein, president of the Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library.
The Friends will make another $15,000 donation in the spring to round out its $200,000 opening day pledge. That money will go toward correcting any problems or addressing issues that might arise after the library reopens.
Mark Bayles, interim library director, said the gift from the Friends will go a long way toward helping to prepare the library for opening day.
“This has allowed us to fill out some remaining pieces in our future plan,” Bayles said.
The gift, for example, will allow the library to double the number of book carts it uses to collect and re-circulate books, which is important because the size of the library is also doubling.
Also, the wheelchair for disabled patrons, for obvious reasons, and checkout baskets purchased with money from the gift will help improve the library experience for patrons, Bayles said.
“Many of our patrons check out 20 to 30 items at a time, particularly from the children’s section,” Bayles said.
The library expansion project is about 80 percent complete.
If all goes as planned, Bayles said the move from University Mall will begin in mid- to late March, with the library reopening sometime in April.
“That’s still tentative,” Bayles said. “Things could change but that’s the current thinking. There’s still the possibility of something cropping up to slow things, but we think that’s unlikely.”
When construction project is completed, it’ll more than double the size of the library, one of the most heavily used per capita in the state.
Bayles said library usage remained steady in spite of the move to University Mall.
He said the prospect of soon moving into the newly expanded library has the staff and patrons excited.
“It’s a little daunting at times to think about what we have ahead of us, but it’s still exciting,” Bayles said.
After an unsuccessful first try, the town has begun a new search for a library director to replace Kathy Thompson, who retired in September.
Bayles is not a candidate for the permanent post.