Library Improvements Coming Soon

A new single-service desk on the main floor of the library will combine the functions of checkout and reference. This will provide “one stop shopping” for library users. The library will be closed Feb. 18 and 19 but will remain open during renovations.

Changes taking place on the main floor of the South Pasadena Public Library will update its look, add space and improve library services, according to officials.

Circulation and reference services will be centralized, and public computers with internet connections will double in number, according to Cathy Billings, Assistant Library Director.

No changes will be made in the Children’s Room.

The sizable circular desk at the entrance to the library used by staff for checking items in and out will be removed Feb. 19, Billings said.

The substantial reference desk, which is located toward the back of the library, will be retired at the same time. Staff has used these desks to serve patrons since the library expanded in 1982 – nearly 40 years.

Taking their place just inside the main entrance is an already installed almost 20-foot-long oak desk a few feet from the west wall. It will serve as the single-point service desk for both checkout and reference services.

Storage cabinets and a book drop have been installed along the wall. Corian countertops give the new structures a sleek look.

Assistant Library Director Cathy Billings displays panels of vinyl wood-like flooring to be installed on the first floor of the library this month.

“This will be a lot more welcoming to patrons,” Billings said at the site last week as the project began. “Right now, there is nothing welcoming inside the front entrance.”

Approximately 20,000 guests visit each month, according to 2018 statistics provided in an email from Billings.

The idea for the project came from a Library Operations Study (LOS), she said. Joe Matthews, a library planning consultant, completed the project in 2016, according to the library web page. It was based on interviews with key people and more than 700 responses from a community survey. The five-member Library Board of Trustees and the City Council approved the work.

The LOS contained 56 recommendations, according to Steve Fjeldsted, Director of Library, Arts, and Culture, in an email. Key improvements included first-floor renovations and an increased number of internet workstations, according to a report he made to the City Council last September.

Funding for the upgrades has come from the city’s library budget, he said, and from grants.

“A CENIC [Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California] grant from the state library gave us high-speed broadband connectivity and the capability to add more public computers,” he said. “Grant funds from a class-action settlement for price fixing on old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) computers enabled us to buy the new computers with ‘outside’ funding.” 

“How to” instructions on the library’s self-checkout machine that is currently onsite. Photos by Sally Kilby

A centralized desk is more convenient for patrons, Billings said.

“They can stop by one location only instead of going to one desk and being told they have to go to the other desk,” she said.

Fjeldsted agreed, stating that libraries have been streamlining the number of public-service points for more than 20 years.

Patrons also will be able to check out items themselves, she said. An automatic self-checkout machine, which is currently already onsite, will soon be stationed next to the new desk.

An average of 26,831 items are checked out each month, according to the 2018 annual report. Last year, reference librarians answered questions and provided computer-related and other assistance in the adult section of the library at a rate of almost 1,600 per month. Library card holders total more than 37,000.

Removing the circulation desk will give the library a more open look and more space, Billings said.

“What I picture are couches, a coffee table, and comfortable seating,” she said, referring to the space now occupied by the circulation desk. “People can sit here with laptops.”

New wood-look vinyl flooring panels will be installed, once the desks are removed, she said. Interior walls will be painted as the project progresses.

New computers have been added to the existing ones lined up along the east wall of the main floor.

The checkout desk will be removed this month as part of a renovation of the main floor of the South Pasadena Public Library. Checkout and reference services will be moved to a new single-point service desk.

“We’ll have a dozen workstations,” Billings said. “Each cubicle is roomier than what we had before, and each has electrical and USB outlets.” 

Fjeldsted said more is planned for the first floor.

“The impending makeover project is just the initial part of the first-floor interior design improvements,” he said. The library has already secured an interior design plan to make the area more attractive and welcoming, he said. In order to implement this recommendation from the LOS, he said, major fundraising is planned.

Another goal is to acquire a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for the library, Billings said. This uses radio frequency and microchip technology to identify books and other items electronically. Checking items in an out will be expedited, she said, and it will help in managing the collection.   

This will benefit staff and patrons alike.

“One of the benefits of more electronic technologies, such as self-check, email notices, and e-books,” Fjeldsted said, “is to reduce repetitive tasks by staff and to partly free them for more creative endeavors.” 

The library will be closed Monday, Feb. 18 for Presidents’ Day and Feb. 19 for construction and staff training.

On Feb. 20, the library will be open, but internet computers will be out of service. Thereafter, the library will remain open as other improvements are made.

The writer is a former board member of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library and is working with the Library Board of Trustees to start a library foundation.