When the Meadville Public Library reopens on August 17th, returning patrons will notice a few changes to the building’s interior. The library’s first floor, long home to non-fiction and technology services, has been completely renovated with new paint and carpet throughout. The most noticeable change that accompanies the renovation is the restoration of the original cast iron stacks, the centerpiece of the main floor, that has been covered up since 1970. Funding for the renovation came from the newly established Linda M. DeArment Preservation Fund, a permanent endowment fund dedicated to the preservation, enhancement, and general upkeep of the library building.
In addition to the renovations, the collection itself has been restructured. The building’s first floor is now home to the entirety of the library’s fiction and nonfiction collections, making the whole of the collection easily accessible in once space. “The whole philosophy of the renovation was to make the patron experience as easy as possible, with no impediments to finding what they want,” said John J. Brice, Library Executive Director. Library staff spent a great deal of time redesigning a more open space and reevaluating the collection to better coincide with patron interest.
While this renovation and redesign was focused on improving the user experience, it also served another purpose: enabling the library to remain open. Due to the current financial crisis and the large cuts in State funding coming in 2021, the library had to find ways to reduce costs. Brice further explained, “We have combined floors in order to facilitate easier patron access to materials and to reduce the cost of operating the library”.
After the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, the library plans to reopen its second floor as a new community meeting and collaborative space. Allowing the public to build connections, foster communications to the outside world, and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas. The building’s ground floor remains dedicated to younger readers; now with even more space as a previous staff workspace has been renovated to serve as a new young adult area.