By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Hamilton Public Library is becoming a victim of its own success.
Only two years after a $16-million renovation of the central library and Hamilton Farmers’ Market was completed, the Hamilton Public Library board is examining how to accommodate the surge of people using the facility, especially in the popular first floor area.
“We have a limited budget,” said Paul Takala, chief executive officer of the library. “But we want to improve our efficiency.”
Under a preliminary space accommodation study presented to board members last week, the first floor of the building would be realigned to expand the children’s area; relocate the DVD section which is now being swamped with people; transform the work room to allow for more programming; and change the reception area so that it overlooks the Main Street entrance. The consultant, MHPM, which the board hired to conduct the study, is also suggesting the Hamilton and Wentworth rooms be expanded for better use.
“Make it more of a community space,” said John Alley, senior advisor with MHPM.
Alley said his staff reviewed the first floor spacing challenges and found that the majority of the people congregate around the DVD area, creating spacing problems within the first floor.
He said the children’s area should be enlarged to allow for more storytelling and other activities to take place.
“It needs to get bigger,” he said. “The first floor needs to be carefully analyzed.”
Alley acknowledged his staff did not talk to customers about what they wanted, but relied on their own observations, and talking with library staff to help craft their recommendations.
Takala said the central library attracted about 1.1 million customers in 2012 and it’s expected to at least meet that number this year.
To accommodate the growing number of people, who use the library, its area needs, especially on the first floor has to be realigned, said Takala.
“What is great about the first floor is the space,” he said. “There is room that is not as utilized as it could be. We have so many people using the facility.”
The renovations, which were completed in 2011, involved installing self-serve check outs, LED lights, free wi-fi, and adding at least 50 computer terminals. The building’s exterior was extended ontoYork Boulevard, highlighted by the immense glass enclosure.
The library has become a popular location for people to drop in, and hang around, or for community groups to use.
The consultants also recommended changes on the second, third and fourth floors, including relocating the digital services on the second floor, expanding the archives area, and creating study areas, and adding more technological equipment on the fourth floor.
The report also suggested moving the library’s materials that are being stored at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame to the third floor archives section.
Alley said any construction would be “small,” such as transforming the work rooms to programming areas, and would fit in with the library’s limited budget.
The sixth floor could be used by the city, something Hamilton officials have been requesting the library to do in the past, said Takala.
The library is also trying to entice McMaster Universityto use the library more often. Takala said the university recently held a class on the fourth floor, something he would like to see become a common sight.
Takala said no cost estimates have been attached to the space planning study, which will be presented to the Library Board at its October meeting. But the idea, said Takala is to fund the changes from the library’s reserve fund.
“We are under a budget restraint,” he said.
He also wants to begin any work on the first floor either later this year or early next year.