Library construction

Keegan Doering, of Lakewood Electronic in Sterling, Illinois, totes a drop cord while installing electrical outlets near the future location of a Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library reading lounge. Construction crews are busy framing walls and soffit throughout the interior of the DeWitt library expansion. The circular wall designs — and adjacent glass walls — will be a prominent feature in the new space.

After years of planning, the $5.7 million Frances Banta Waggoner Community  Library expansion project has gone from discussions to blueprints to a concrete shape – literally. 

“They are pouring concrete as we speak,” Jillian Aschliman, library director, said last week. Builders also framed walls and installed spray foam insulation throughout the building.

“We are starting to recognize some of the drawings coming to life,” she said, adding that it’s been fun to watch library patrons enjoy viewing the construction process. 

The new addition is expected to be move-in ready in mid-May. At that point, the library will close for a couple of weeks so shelving can be installed, the collection moved, and technology put in place. 

Then renovation work will begin on the current library, with the entire project expected to be complete in the fall. 

The project will nearly triple the library’s size to 21,000 square feet. The project will increase the children’s space and Teen Zone, more than triple the number of computers available to the public, and provide more meeting space, among other features. 

Right now, the library staff is working on tagging the current collection with new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which uses radio waves to automatically identify individual items. RFID will allow library patrons to use self-checkout stations, reduce the amount of time staff uses to check items in and out and track their location, and provide some security against stolen materials.

Phase Two of the RFID project consists of installing self-check stations and staff work stations in the new library. 

The library staff is also getting rid of outdated materials and cleaning out filing cabinets, Aschliman said, so things might look different to patrons as the work progresses. 

“Things will look like they are disappearing, but they have just been moved. So patrons should ask if they can’t find something.”

In other library news:

Rachel Grager is the new adult services librarian. She started Feb. 4. Aschliman is reviewing applications for a circulation manager, who hopefully will be in place to train the outgoing manager, Joellyn McDonald, before she retires in late March.

A new copier has arrived. The coin-operated feature of the machine will be installed after the library moves to its new addition. Right now, the copier is next to service desk so staff can assist patrons. 

• Forty-eight kids signed up for the winter reading program. Some 13 families – 45 people – attended Family Fort Night Jan. 31 to mark the end of the program. 

• Tami Finley will do a presentation on the history of aprons on March 26. More details will be forthcoming. 

• The board voted to retain the current officers for the upcoming year: Kari Bossom, president; Pat Henricksen, vice president; and Mary Froeschle, secretary. Tricia Thayer will fill in for Froeschle if she cannot attend.