Final Thoughts from the Revitalization Project Coordinator

For the past two years, Heather Robinson, Head of the Children’s and Teens’ Services Department, has also been acting as the Library Revitalization Project Coordinator. During the Grand Reopening of St. Thomas Public Library on Thursday, March 29, 2012, Heather’s role as Project Coordinator came to a bittersweet end. The following is Heather’s speech during the Grand Reopening event – the final thoughts and words of wisdom that mark the culmination of the Library Revitalization Project Coordinator position:

When CEO/Chief Librarian Rudi Denham asked me if I would accept the position of “Library Revitalization Project Coordinator”, I replied almost immediately that I would. She replied kiddingly, “You’re crazy” and there were times when I felt so particularly overwhelmed that I was convinced that I had been crazy to accept. For the most part, however, I found the process exhilarating, exciting and full of new challenges.

Shortly after my role actually began, I was at a conference in Toronto and met a colleague who had just finished a library renovation working with the same architect we had chosen, Chamberlain Architect Services. While waiting in a lineup at break, she proudly showed me photographs of her beautiful new spaces. As we parted ways, she told me that “I would work harder than I had ever worked in my whole life” and that “I would face decisions almost daily about things that I knew nothing about”.  The latter, in particular, made me cringe. I asked her how I would cope and she replied, “Heather, you are a librarian. You’ll find out what you need to know.”

After several months of upheaval and arduous moves to and from the Elgin Mall, we are now in the enviable position of being back “home”, namely the Revitalized St. Thomas Public Library. I now get to shake my head empathetically at others who are in the beginning stages of a renovation. Although we’re back, there are many “deficiencies”, some very small and some larger, that still exist. Whenever I feel as though I am drowning in these deficiencies though, I take a tour around the Library and watch how our customers are using it and I’m reminded that we’ve given the library back to our “people”.

There is nothing more gratifying than seeing the fruits of our labour. The rewards are in the way that our customers are using the spaces that we designed. At any given time, there are folks on their laptops in front of the large windows on the Main Floor, people tucked away in the study rooms on the Second Floor, teens socializing in the Teen Lounge or children performing a puppet show for their parents in the Palmer Youth Library.  The library is a “destination” and the “living room” of our community just as we’d hoped it would be.

I never dreamed I’d have an opportunity to work with such a wide range of amazing people, from the architects to interior designers, contractors and those who are in the trades. They taught me a great deal about their jobs and patiently assisted me with mine. And I wouldn’t have made it without the talented staff and Board Members of this Library.

I’d like to share 10 things that I learned in my role as Library Revitalization Project Coordinator in closing:

  1. A measuring tape is a ‘must’ for any woman’s purse.
  2. Masking tape works very effectively for laying out the placement of shelving – but be sure to get the quality stuff.
  3. There definitely is beauty in “brutalism”, our building’s style of architecture. It was so interesting to see this building stripped of its contents and then its aesthetics, then watch it being built back up bit by bit.
  4. Some of the best “To Do” lists are created at 2:00 in the morning.
  5. Expect that your paycheque will not go nearly as far if you work in a Mall.  But hey, my wardrobe is now in pretty great shape!
  6. Hard hats and safety boots do not accessorize well with any outfit.
  7. Always expect the unexpected when you work in a public library.  Shortly after we opened at the Mall, two budgies escaped from the pet store and flew straight into our Adult Department.  They perched on the beams over our storage boxes and had to be rescued…twice!
  8. If you can’t beat water leaks, join them. We actually had to position shelves so that the materials on them would not suffer water damage from leaks that are still present.
  9. If you don’t know something, there is a good chance that someone on this marvelous Library staff will and they will be willing to share.
  10. If your boss asks you to do something challenging, say “yes”. It may just be the opportunity of a lifetime.

– Heather Robinson

Head of Children’s and Teens’ Services Department
Former Library Revitalization Project Coordinator

Grand Reopening Today!

Be sure to stop by St. Thomas Public Library today and celebrate with us our Grand Reopening! An Open House will be held from 1:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. with speeches, acknowledgements, and public ribbon cutting at 2:00 p.m. on the main level. Refreshments are available on all three levels through the duration of the Open House, so if you can’t make it at 2:00 p.m., there is still plenty of excitement in the evening. There are also free draws on all three levels. We encourage you to enter all three draws!


We have prepared a Self-Guided Tour Booklet to help familiarize yourself with the Revitalized spaces. (There certainly are a lot of changes!) We also have copies of the Official Grand Reopening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony from this morning at 10:00 a.m. as well as the original program from when the building opened in 1974. The final edition of Re:News – Your Library Revitalization Source hot off the press! Be sure to pick up your (slightly early) copy of the April Events flyer to find out what’s happening in the library next month.


I hope you can join us!

Elevator Upgrades

Please be advised that the St. Thomas Public Library’s elevator will be undergoing repairs and upgrades.

Elevator service may be disrupted from:

9:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 15 to

5:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The Palmer Youth Library on the lower level and the main level are fully accessible by outdoor ramp to separate entrances. Local History and Administration are available via stairs only.

At the library, please ask for staff assistance. For more information, please email

We apologize for any inconvenience. If in doubt, please call the library at 519-631-6050 to check if the elevator is operational. Check the library’s website for updates. Please note that the elevator may not be out of service for the entire week, but we’d like to be prepared.



We’re Open!

Well, we’re back! Some days it seems like forever, other days it seems like yesterday since we left the building at 153 Curtis Street. Nevertheless, the Revitalization Project is nearing completion and the building looks dramatically different. Not everything is 100% in place, but we’re getting there! We thank everyone for their patience and understanding in this rather awkward transition period.


The library seems to change every time I walk through it. Every day brings something new – shelving, furniture, fixtures, material – and every day a different (yet familiar) face – electricians, plumbers, carpenters. We’re hoping to have the majority of things in place by February 9 – the day of our public Open House (details on that to follow in a later email,) and everything in place in time for our Grand Opening on March 8. We had the option of being closed longer to get all of the deficiencies corrected, or opening on January 16 so everyone could get their material. We decided to open on the 16th. I’ll be adding photos of the new areas on Flickr soon so if you can’t get to the library, you’ll at least be able to see it.


In the meantime, we have a couple of events coming up that I thought you (and the community) might like to know about.


“How to eBook” Workshop

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Computer Lab, lower level

No fee! No registration!


Did you get an eBook reader this Christmas? Or perhaps you’ve recently made the move to the convenience of eBooks. If you’re having trouble navigating or downloading books, we’re here to help! Whether it’s a Kobo, Sony Reader, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or any of the other many eBook readers available, our E-Specialist will help you get the answers you need including how to use Overdrive and EBSCOhost, the library’s free eBook services.


Please bring your device, any necessary attachments or cables, and library card to this workshop and we’ll find a solution together.


Preschool Storytime Programs

Register today!

Children’s and Teens’ Department, lower level


Storytimes at the library are a fun and engaging way to encourage a lifelong love of reading and to build reading readiness in children. Registration for Winter Storytime Programs is on now in the Children’s and Teens’ Department. You can register in person, by phone at 519-631-6050 or via email at Programs take place in the Ingram Activity Centre, the new program space on the lower level made just for the Childrens’ and Teens’ Department! Space is limited and fills up quickly – register now!


Books and Bounces (Birth – 2 years):

Create a special bond with your baby through rhymes, songs, and stories

Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. – February 14 to March 6, 2012


Tales for Twos (2 years):

Engage in fun stories, music, rhymes and more to develop early literacy skills in your child.

Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. – February 15 to March 7, 2012


Preschool Storytime (3 to 5 years):

Develop listening and language skills while enjoying books, storytelling, puppetry, and creative movement.

Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. – February 16 to March 8, 2012

Friends of St. Thomas Public Library Blowout Book Sale

Month of January

Library Friends’ Shop, Elgin Mall, 417 Wellington Street, St. Thomas


The Library Friends’ Shop is overstocked! For the month of January, everything in the Library Friends’ Shop is half price!


Hardcovers were $2, now only $1!

Softcovers and paperbacks were $1.50, now only 75¢!


Store hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


The Library Friends’ Shop is a volunteer organization that sells donated and library discarded books, magazines, audiobooks, CDs, and movies in a wide variety of genres. All of the proceeds are donated to St. Thomas Public Library. St. Thomas Public Library would like to thank all of the Friends volunteers for their hard work and dedication. Last year, the Friends of St. Thomas Public Library donated almost $40,000 to the St. Thomas Public Library Revitalization Project.


St. Thomas Public Library is always a busy hub of activity. Be sure to visit us and take a look at the Revitalized library. Try to come when you have some extra time – I suggest you explore all three levels. With so many new features and the layout completely changing, it may take a while to take it all in. We hope you enjoy it!

Making the Move – Technology Update

As you’ve probably heard by now, we’ve closed our mall locations and have moved back to Curtis St. We really enjoyed our time at the mall but we’re glad to be going home too.


Though all of our books and equipment have made the move, we don’t open until January 16th so that we can get everything back where it…well, not necessarily where it was, but where it’s going in the new layout.


Possibly the most complex part of our move is the technology.


Many of the public computers are being replaced with systems running the latest Windows 7 software. Once they’re set up, they all have to be configured to work with our network and, once they have Internet connectivity, they’ll need all kinds of updates. That’s usually not complicated but it sure takes a lot of time. We’ve seen a computer require as many as 68 updates in 4 sets of downloads as the unit gets caught up on what it’s been missing since it was boxed up at the factory.


The old public computers have all been updated and cleaned up thanks to volunteer help, but it still took 3 days! They’ll be going downstairs in our new computer lab, which requires a whole new set of networking. (The public computer stations will have completely new machines!)


The lab is a new feature that we’ve added in the renovations. We know how important the digital world is, whether for job hunters, local business people, researchers or people staying in touch with family and friends. With this in mind, we hope to offering public training in the lab this year, as well as having a terrific facility that local organizations can take advantage of. Please note – the computer lab will not be “up and running” by the time of opening. It is the temporary home to all computer and technology while we’re setting up the library. The public will have the opportunity to see it a week or two after the library reopens. (Sorry for the inconvenience!)


Then there are all the staff computers that have to be set up, along with the accompanying printers and our very popular wireless network. We also have computers assigned to specific duties, such as managing public printing or making reservations for our public Internet access computers. In most cases this is simply a matter of getting the same setup in place again but we also have some new systems that will need to learn how to work together.


And that’s the easy stuff.


Our security gates and book scanners are notoriously finicky but have to be up and running before we can really consider ourselves operational. Our Circulation Desks (which we will be calling “Service Desks,”) also have printers and debit machines that have their own configurations. And our self check-out unit needs to be ready to play a bigger role in 2012 as our customers get more familiar with its capabilities.


It’s a lot of work but it’s also a great opportunity. We get to do some of the basic maintenance that can sometimes get bumped down the to-do list and we’re looking forward to getting our new toys set up.


And we’re really looking forward to welcoming our customers back to the building to share the work that ‘s been done with them . See you on the 16th!


Drop boxes available during closure

Just a little update about drop boxes while St. Thomas Public Library is closed for the move back to Curtis Street. We’ve had several people ask if drop boxes will be available while the library is closed and the answer is “Absolutely!”

The drop box that has been located outside of the Adult Department in the Elgin Mall will remain there until the library reopens downtown on January 16, 2012. The drop box that was near the Elgin Mall food court has been moved to the outside of the library at 153 Curtis Street. The drop box that is outside of the Elgin Mall is still there as well.

Please feel free to make use of the drop boxes. While nothing is due while the library is closed, we’d rather you return something once you’ve finished with it than have you forget about it and then be hit with overdue fines later. (Eek!)  The drop boxes will be emptied on a daily basis – it might be a day before you see the item come off of your account, but we’ll take care of you! No worries!

If you have any questions – about closures, due date, reopening, whatever! – give the library a call at 519-631-6050. We’d love to hear from you!

We’re Moving Back! (Frequently Asked Questions)

My, how eight months just zooms by! It seems like yesterday that we were preparing everyone for our move to the Elgin Mall. Now we’re doing our best to prepare you for the move back to Curtis Street. Below are a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. We’ll be posting updates as they come along. If you have any questions about the move back, please do not hesitate to call the library at 519-631-6050.

Is St. Thomas Public Library staying in the mall?

We loved being here, but we won’t be staying as it isn’t economically feasible to provide service from more than one location at this time. The Library Friends Shop will continue to have their used book sales at the mall.

When are you moving back to Curtis Street?

The library will be closed Monday, December 19, 2011 to Saturday, January 14, 2012 to make the transition from the Elgin Mall to Curtis Street. In preparation, the library will close early (5:00 p.m.) on Wednesday, December 14 to Saturday, December 17.

All loans have extended due dates. Nothing will be due back to the library until after it opens on Curtis Street. Any books borrowed before December 17 will be due on January 23, 2012 or after. Other material will have extended loan periods once the closing date draws closer. (For example, magazines, DVDs, and CDs.)

A drop box will still be available at the Elgin Mall location and at the Curtis Street building if you would like to return your borrowed material early. You can also place holds on material online, and can pick them up once the library opens back up on Curtis Street.

The move back to Curtis Street will be more complex and challenging than the move to the Elgin Mall. We will be fitting our collection into the building in new shelving and a new layout. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience the closing causes and appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to create an even better library experience for you.

How are the renovations going?

Construction will be finished in early December 2011. Over the last six months, we fixed leaky roofs, scraped coverings off the skylights, cut through concrete to add windows, and added washrooms on every floor. Now we’re ready to add the finishing touches!

Does the library on Curtis Street look any different?

New colours! Bright lights! The Revitalized Library will look very different… Gone are the drab walls, tired furniture and dark corners. There will be colour on some accent walls, lots of glass walls, and new architectural features.

Look for the familiar cedar slats that used to hang on the ceiling used in innovative ways as decorative accents!

What can we look forward to seeing in the new space?

We focused on making the spaces brighter and more open, so all the library’s resources will be more accessible.

New multi-purpose service desks on each level will meet your needs, whether you have a question, need a new card, or want to borrow a book.

Quiet places to study, an expanded local history area, sunlight through the re-opened skylights – and we’ll be able to accommodate more children in programs where we had to turn away before.

What might not be so obvious is a focus on energy efficiency with better lighting, insulated walls, and caulked windows.

What will parking look like?

Parking hasn’t changed – there is parking in front, in the City Hall lot, and in the public lots on Scott and Mondamin streets.There are two accessible spaces on the east side of the library building.

How much is it going to cost?

The City of St. Thomas provided $1.3 million, including a provincial accessibility grant. Public donations from the Palmer family, local businesses, the Friends of St. Thomas Public Library, and generous donors like you added another $500,000 for furniture, equipment, and enhancements.

We expect the construction to end up on budget – all the unexpected little things that came up during construction we accommodated within the project’s approved costs.

Are the library staff excited about moving back?

Library staff are really excited that the Revitalization Project is nearing completion. It’s time to move back “home.” And we know you’re going to be excited to see it!