Last Tuesday’s open house at Northern Lights Library System’s newly renovated headquarters provided visitors with eye-opening insight on the system’s day-to-day operation as well as an opportunity to admire the newly enlarged and refurbished facility.
Offices and storage areas occupy spaces that were previously the foyer and order processing and staff rooms, small meeting rooms have become a massive boardroom large enough to accommodate representatives of all 42 member libraries, and a gigantic workroom with attached indoor loading bay has taken the place of a large meeting room and several offices, while a four-bay garage has taken over space that was originally a covered outdoor patio.
The $2.3 million renovation and addition started in May 2009 and involved a total overhaul of the interior of the building as well as the new construction. Very little has been left as it was, with walls moved, rooms repurposed and equipment updated to streamline operations.
The huge workroom, several times the size of its predecessor, has ample space to order, receive and process new materials, receive interlibrary loan materials and package both for delivery by the Northern Lights van.
“Leah (Adams) does all our ordering. As orders come in, Dolores (Zacharuk) receives and barcodes them, then Mike (Maguire) and Margaret (Young) process them. We will have brought in 35,000 items by the end of the year, up 17 per cent since last year,” executive assistant Patty Mathiot pointed out on a tour of the facility. Processor Paul Kosa processes the books and adds protective covering to the more expensive paperbacks, then checks with Zacharuk to see where the new acquisitions are headed. “If there’s a hold, it’s immediately bagged for one of the van runs.”
The catalogued and library-shelf-ready material is sorted into a series of compartments lining the east wall, one compartment for each library. A matching set of compartments fills the wall behind the table where interlibrary loan clerk Susan Frisby sorts materials coming from member libraries and other library systems and puts them in the space labeled with their destination, then does the same with materials that are heading back to their home libraries. In 2009, NLLS processed 167,007 interlibrary going out to other libraries and 187,661 coming in.
One huge stack of lidded plastic bins in front of the worktable is filled with items for Joanne McBroom to deliver on Wednesday’s delivery run, going as far west as Sturgeon and Edmonton Garrison, while another stack contains returned materials she has just unloaded from the Tuesday run to points between Elk Point and Tofield. On Monday, she hauls materials to libraries as far away as Wandering River, while Thursday’s run reaches Kitscoty. McBroom logs about 2,500 km in four days of delivery, with the fifth day devoted to vehicle maintenance.
Just down the hallway from the workroom is a computer lab with 10 laptops that can be used for mobile training or training in the headquarters. That room is also used for videoconferencing, Mathiot says.
Next door is the collection storage room, equipped with movable shelving units that travel on railway-type tracks set in the floor, allowing 75 to 80 per cent more books – a total of 13,701 volumes, to be stored in the space. These books are loaned out in blocks, public services assistant Colette Oster says, and include large print, books in various languages and other categories, such as westerns, as well as blocks of audio books and readers and books for the vision impaired.
Oster also showed off her kit collections, which include storytime kits with books, props and a librarian’s manual of songs, finger plays and other activities. “The kits aren’t just for kids,” Oster says. “We have kits for teens and tweens, book club kits, murder mystery kits with costumes, intergenerational kits and kits for seniors.” The kits are available to libraries not only within the system but also on TRAC (The Regional Automation Consortium), a partnership of Marigold Library System, Northern Lights Library System, Peace Library System, Yellowhead Regional Library, and their member libraries.
Just across the hall is the information technology department, where one of the newest NLLS employees, Bobby Snow, and fellow network analyst Kelly Ostropolski, can work on most of the 300 computers in member libraries without leaving their office. The system’s network will be complete in January.
Open house visitors also had the opportunity to meet the NLLS bear mascot, enjoy snacks and hot drinks, enter for a door prize (won by Elk Point Municipal Library Board chair Laverne Wilson) and take home a goodie bag filled with mementos of their visit.