Libraries have come a long way, as will soon be revealed at the Red Bridge Library opening
By Jill Draper
Those were the days—when patrons thumbed through index cards in old wooden cabinets and librarians wielded due date guns as they checked out books at the front counter. Food and drinks were prohibited and late fees were counted in pennies. Talking was frowned on and often shushed.
“When I first started here, librarians had that reputation,” remembers Carrie Torrence, a longtime employee at the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Red Bridge Branch, which has been closed for construction since Aug. 21. Librarians have since loosened up, she says, and become more empowered to help customers. Plus, drinks without a screwtop lid are now allowed, and the new building that will house the branch even has a vending machine.
Co-worker Steven Bellah, assistant manager, says the building also has a much bigger community room that can seat 101 people, a family nursing room and an improved children’s section. As a nod to its former use as a bowling alley, the steps that went down to the lanes remain and have been redesigned as places to sit, read, study and collaborate.
Torrence and Bellah began their careers in high school as pages who shelved books and did other basic duties. The two recall the time a woman hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and crashed her car through the east wall, lending emphasis to that year’s summer reading slogan of Fizz, BOOM, Read.
These days, says Bellah, staff go beyond walls all the time, delivering books to retirement homes, holding storytime at daycare centers, presenting inservice training to school teachers, and reading to people with dementia. They also host local homeschoolers and community groups, including the Red Bridge Quilters, who have met at the library for 20 years.
To bridge the old with the new, the community is invited to join a special book brigade during a celebratory block party and dedication ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Customers and staff will line up to help pass the last few books from the old location to the new, just across the parking lot to the north. There will be refreshments, face painting, a balloon artist, and a peak at the new community room where local officials will make brief remarks.
The Red Bridge Branch opens at 9 a.m. the following day, Sept. 26. The new address is 453B Red Bridge Road in the Red Bridge Shopping Center.