If the opening weekend is any indication, local residents seem ready to help the expanded Lawrence Public Library meet its goal of serving as an even more important center of community activity.
Large crowds were reported both Saturday and Sunday after the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning. Visitors were eager to see the renovated structure and all the new services and spaces it offers. There are, of course, still books, but the library has many other features that will draw visitors to the facility.
First, the library has a strikingly open feel. A new entry hall on the facility’s southeast corner features a coffee bar and provides an inviting spot to read or meet a friend. The hall also provides direct access to the updated library auditorium, which now is equipped with new technology for presenters.
It’s great news for the community that the auditorium as well as three meeting rooms on the library’s lower level will continue to be open to most community events and nonprofit groups without charge. Brad Allen, the library’s executive director said Monday that the library has started taking reservations for those rooms and expects to have an online reservation system up and running soon. The auditorium now accommodates up to 160 people, and the lower-level meeting rooms, which are equipped with meeting tables, large flat screens and marker boards, are designed for about 20 people each. The library auditorium always has been a popular local meeting spot, and the meeting rooms are an important addition for a library that is promoting itself as a community gathering spot.
The library also has doubled the number of computers available in its lower-level computer lab. The 27 computer stations provide important Internet access to residents who don’t have their own computers at home. Other new library features include a sound and video production studio, five reservable four-person study rooms and a drive-through facility where library patrons can drop off materials and pick up reserved materials.
The role of libraries has changed considerably since Lawrence’s first subscription library was founded in 1854. The new library building does a good job of responding to those changes. Its future as a source of information and a community gathering site looks bright.