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

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!


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!

July Library Revitalization Update

It’s high time for an update on the Library Revitalization Project. Progress has been made both at the Library and in the planning details surrounding the project.

Image showing piles of cut concrete with the elevator in the background

In addition to the concrete dust flying in the building on Curtis Street, detailed planning is underway.  A number of interdepartmental Task Forces have been established to discuss a wide variety of topics.

At the Kids’ Spot Task Force, discussion revolved around how to create a literacy rich environment for children and their accompanying adults in the Palmer Youth Library. We plan to accomplish this by providing educational games and learning activities. Staff will be looking at other libraries for inspiration. For example, at one library the stair treads were numbered so that children and adults could sing the alphabet song as they entered the library and mirrors were added to the service desks with signs asking the children what mood they were in today.

A Teen Zone Task Force composed of library staff members as well as about 10 teens from our Teen Advisory Board met to discuss furnishings.  In a nutshell, they want to be able to lounge on chairs and on the floor and “get comfortable”. They’d also like chairs with places to put laptops and other devices.

“Express Reads”, an initiative to have popular materials available at all times for shorter loan periods, was passed by the Library Board for a launch in September. A Readers’ Advisory Task Force is investigating ways to implement this program, as well as looking at ways to connect readers with books that they will enjoy as well as with library staff members and other customers with similar reading interests.

Technology Task Force – This group is looking at the various functions in the library that require technology and beginning to formulate a plan for efficiently moving it from the Mall to the Library.

Our new Study Rooms, Computer Lab, enlarged Local History space and Marketplace display areas all have a task forces to investigate ways these spaces will be used, and the furnishing required in them.

Working with an interior designer, the Adult Furnishings Task Force is looking at samples of furnishings and creating a layout. We listed the various functions that need to be considered for our customers (i.e. studying in groups, studying alone, socializing, comfortably reading) and mapped out where these functions might take place. We will then be able to recommend types and quantities of the different styles of furniture we select.

We also have a Collections and Move Task Force analyzing whether or not some collections could be combined – such as hard cover and paperback fiction.  They also began to think about placement of collections in the Revitalized Library keeping in mind that we want to achieve a flow from one to another.

If you’d like more information, continue to check out our website, visit our Flickr photostream or stop by at our temporary locations at Elgin Mall.  We’ll be setting up an information booth in the Adult area with ongoing updates and photographs of progress shortly.


Seniors’ Picnic in the Park

Around this time every year, St. Thomas and Elgin County come together in Pinafore Park for a special day centred around seniors and their families. For the past few years, St. Thomas Public Library and Friends of St. Thomas Public Library have a booth at the Annual Seniors’ Picnic in the Park and this year is no exception!


Please join us for:

Seniors’ Picnic in the Park

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Pinafore Park, Elm Street, St. Thomas, ON

St. Thomas Public Library will be on site selling books from Friends of St. Thomas Public Library and $2 butterflies for Library Revitalization. Library staff will be there to answer any questions you may have about programs and services offered at St. Thomas Public Library, Library Revitalization, and the temporary location at Elgin Mall. Or just stop by to say “Hello!” (The library staff are a friendly bunch!)

Seniors’ Picnic in the Park features local entertainment, door prizes, interactive displays, activities, music, vendors and displays,  food, and fun (for free!) For more information on the event, call VON at 519-637-6408.Don’t forget to bring a lawn chair, picnic lunch, sunscreen, and a little cash! There’s lots to see, do, and buy while at the park. Hope to see you there!

Updated Construction Photos on Flickr

Howdy folks!

For those of you who are interested, more photos of the library’s demolition on Curtis Street have been uploaded to the library’s Flickr account. A word of warning: these photos may send you for a loop! There are a couple that I couldn’t even identify. I’ll update them when I figure out where they were taken. I’ll post again on this blog when more photos of the demolition and renovations have been uploaded to Flickr.

Want to stay in the loop? Click the “Sign me up” button on the right hand side of the blog to add your email address to the blog mailing list.

Happy viewing!


Construction has begun!

Demolition began at the library on May 31, 2011. You can’t pop your head in to take a look, but our Building and Systems Manager and his camera can! We’ve added the photos that have been taken so far to the library’s Flickr page. Photos will be added on a weekly basis. (Give or take a few days.) You may be surprised to see what’s been done so far!

Dumpsters at St. Thomas Public LibraryFront of St. Thomas Public LibraryDemolition Crew at St. Thomas Public LibraryDemolition in St. Thomas Public Library

A short message will be added to this blog announcing when new photos on the demolition and construction have been uploaded to Flickr. Want to stay in the loop? Click on the “Sign me up!” button on the right and you’ll be emailed when we post on the blog.