Printed on: November 22, 2012

Revamped I.F. library fully open

By Clark Corbin

The era of free golf cart rides at the Idaho Falls Public Library ended Wednesday with the opening of the remodeled facility.

With about 25 customers waiting in the new lobby inside the south entrance, library Director Robert Wright unveiled the reconfigured library.

Idaho Falls-based Shook Construction handled the seven-month project after submitting a $907,167 bid in April.

The new-look library includes a new south entrance and lobby that boasts automatic doors, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access ramp, larger community meeting rooms and a new family restroom.

The expansion was driven by demand.

Eight years ago, patrons checked out about 600,000 different items. Circulation jumped to 1.1 million items last year, Wright said.

"Over the last eight years, we've seen about a doubling of the library's use here," Wright said.

During the nearly seven-month construction period, the library's staff leased golf carts to shuttle patrons from the parking lot to the Broadway entrance -- a popular, if quirky, service no longer necessary.

In addition to giving the library room to grow, Wright said the renovations increased accessibility and safety.

The new entrance extends closer to the parking lot, and crews leveled the old, steep outside entrance ramp that became slippery during winter months.

Officials began discussing entrance renovations after a library user slipped and broke her arm on Christmas Eve several years ago, Wright said.

"Libraries are kind of the people's universities," he said. "We like to think they are accessible to everybody, and I think this makes it a lot more family friendly."

Children's librarian Kim Bryant said the renovation opens up more room for the popular children's programs. About 5,000 children participated in summer reading programs this year, and library officials struggled to make room for them.

With the renovations completed, the library will be able to use one of the new meeting rooms for summer reading events and weekly story time sessions.

"When we had our Halloween story time costume party, we had 300 people show up when our max capacity was basically about 75," Bryant said. "We had bodies stacked up in the hallway because we didn't have space for them."

Bryant also hopes the extra space will allow her to launch new programs for young readers and their families.

Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman congratulated the library's staff on the remodeling, as well as increased services and circulation.

"With all the technology going on, you would think that some libraries would have a difficult time -- but not this one," Fuhriman said.

Clark Corbin can be reached at 542-6761.