Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Middletown library breaks ground

The Middletown library groundbreaking on Wednesday was very welcome news to this library volunteer.
Each week that I shelve books presents me with an interesting challenge to fit the library’s inventory into its finite space.

Middletown has outgrown its community library. The library collection has expanded and evolved to keep pace with the information needs of the members of its community.

Our library shares resources between branches among a three-county system of Mendocino, Sonoma and Lake. Several times a day staff at the various libraries are pulling hold requests.

But as steadily as books leave the Middletown library to fulfill patrons’ needs, others as steadily return.
I never know from week-to-week whether the number of books that have left the library exceed the number that have come back. But I think it contributes to the ease with which I can find — or not find — space to fit books on the shelves.

Sometimes the shelves are packed to capacity so I set the returns into a pile as neatly as I can so that they will be ready for shelving when space becomes available.

Last week while I shelved, I looked with Gehlen Palmer, the Middletown library director, out the window at the open field across Highway 29 from the library. For as long as he’d worked there, Palmer said, he believed that space would be the perfect place for a Middletown library.

On Wednesday, Lake County took its first tangible steps toward making that dream a reality. Now, it seems as though each day when I ride past the site on the bus, there is a growing collection of large machinery parked on that open field.

These are pretty exciting developments!

The new Middletown Senior Center and Library complex will be located at 21256 Washington St. between Douglas and Callayomi streets in Middletown. According to the County of Lake, the new dual-use facility will comprise 12,377 square feet of space that includes a 4,400-square-foot senior center, a 5,450-square-foot public library and a 2,527-square-foot common area. The complex will provide a new home for the Middletown library and the existing senior center operated by Middletown Seniors, Inc.

To give readers an idea of how much more space will be available to these two entities, the existing Middletown library is 1,790 square feet and the existing senior center is 2,100 square feet.

I would like to acknowledge the history of the Chauncey W. Gibson Library, as it was compiled by Jan Cook. The Middletown branch library was originally dedicated in May 1929. It was named to honor an Oakland resident who first donated a large number of books and then funded construction of a permanent building for Middletown’s first library.

According to Cook’s history, Gibson made his offer on the condition that Middletown’s citizens would provide the land. The complete history was published in Fall 2009 issue of Booknotes, a newsletter for the Friends of the Lake County Library.

The Gibson library is a beautiful building that has served Middletown well. It justly honors a man whose generosity enhanced the lives of Middletown residents. There is no shame to this building that it has become too small to meet the community’s growing information needs.

I really look forward to shelving returned books in our new Middletown library. What a relief it will be to know that there is room on its shelves for our library collection to expand.

Published Sept. 20, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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