Local residents seem to have found the Lawrence Public Library's interim location. On a recent afternoon, they skimmed its aisles looking for books, manned just about every computer station in the building, and listened to a technology presentation in the teen section.
"The foot traffic, we're not surprised, is down a little bit," said Library Director Brad Allen. "Overall, the number of things people are checking out is similar. We anticipate pretty nice crowds when we reopen the place next year."
It's been four months since the Lawrence Public Library moved into the former Borders location at 700 New Hampshire St., which will be its temporary home until a new $19 million expansion is completed in summer 2014. The city leased the space for 20 months at a cost of $230,000 plus utilities.
The interim location will fill the void while construction, which remains on target, continues on the new space. Once completed, the renovated library at 707 Vermont St. will be larger and technologically superior to the former building, with more meeting rooms, computers and space for kids and community living, plus a digital-media lab and parking garage.
The public has slowly grown more aware of the temporary locale, officials say. In the beginning, staff members fielded numerous calls from people not knowing the library had moved or where it was.
"Traffic seems about the same, but I sometimes wonder if that's because it's smaller," said reference assistant Jake Vail. "Apparently the circulation numbers are down a little bit, but that's to be expected."
The temporary facility is about a third of the size of the old one — 16,000 square feet to 45,000; the new building, meanwhile, will span 65,000 square feet. The lack of size at the interim location means that half of the library's adult-book collection must be kept in storage. Patrons who want to check out one of those books have to wait a day or two to receive it. In addition, administrative staff are now forced to work out of outdoor trailers.
Holding a stack of children's books under her arm, Rochelle Marsh, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom, said she was pleased with what the library has done with the building. Her only complaint was the lack of parking.
"I think they did a good job given the space they had to work with and the stuff they had to put in here," the Lawrence woman said.
As she browsed MP3 audiobooks, Linda Dolsberry, of Lawrence, agreed that the only major downside was the parking situation. She did add that she would like to see the library eventually open a satellite location on the west side of town.
"I think there's a need there. Lawrence is so big, and education and literacy are very important here," said the 57-year-old speech therapist.
Over in the graphic-novels section, Gabe Perry, a 32-year-old garden center employee, said he enjoys the openness of the temporary space, though he preferred how the computers were segregated at the other location; they're now in the middle of the library, where it can get loud, the Lawrence man said.
Library officials thank residents for their patience and say the wait will be well worth it once the renovated structure opens up next year.
"We're really pleased with the transition, and we're doing our best to serve the community in a time when we're undergoing a pretty massive transformation of our location," said Allen, the library director. "It's an exciting time to be in Lawrence. We're thrilled the community has decided to fund the building of a new library. It's a proud moment for this town."