CARLISLE — With the bulk of the $6.5 million renovation and expansion of Bosler Memorial Library completed ahead of schedule, library patrons are apparently making up for lost time.
Circulation in the first quarter is up 26 percent from last year, and 4 percent from 2011, said Linda Rice, library director.
“Our circulation tanked during construction, as we knew it would,” she said, with the library continuing to operate throughout the nearly two-year construction period. “We’re ramping back up. We’re starting to get back to business as usual.
Bosler is now on target to surpass its record circulation of 511,000 in 2009, she said.
Programming also is starting to pick up. The children’s department started programs the same week it moved in just before Christmas. Adult programs are taking off now, since the last piece of audiovisual equipment, a projector, was installed. They include three book discussion groups and an armchair travelers series. Coming up at 7 p.m. May 17 is a one-man show on Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813). The founder of Dickinson College and famous physician and philanthropist will be portrayed by Dr. Craig Jurgensen of Carlisle.
"I love it, except for the parking — it's still too small," said Nichole Harner, of Carlisle, who as a nanny brings a child frequently to the library. "It's bigger — it gives us more area to be in. The new feeling of it makes it feel better. We come here on rainy days a lot for storytime and to get books."
There are still some renovations yet to complete over summer.
“In a few months we will reopen our original entrance,” which has been locked since 1987, Rice said.
The façade, which has cracks, will be replaced, along with the roof over the east wing, and some lighting and air conditioning work.
The renovations in the rotunda at the entrance, which now leads to the library’s Bookery area, turned up a beautiful tile floor that had been covered up years ago. Surprisingly, the floral motif is in the same colors of the library — green, tan and cream.
The library moved into its expanded quarters in December, four months ahead of schedule, thanks to a mild winter. The project was completed in two phases: first, building a south addition on the rear parking lot, and then renovating the library’s west and east wings.
One of the things Rice likes most about the new library is “the look on peoples’ faces when they come in and see all the changes ... It’s the atmosphere — it’s big, but it’s comfortable, homey.”
More space is also a major improvement, with the library doubling in size, to 42,000 square feet. “People were so jam-packed in before,” she said.
The library now has spacious aisles, a large dividable community room. The children’s area, which is on the second floor, is triple the size of the old one, nestled in the west corner with bright window lighting and plenty of room for storytelling and play.
Kids also have their own program room, instead of having to share one with the grownups. Some days they had to tear down and set up the program room four times a day, Rice recalled.
A new teen room has been added, for which programs will be planned.
Computers are scattered throughout the library, which gives more privacy as people do tasks such as banking and job applications, she said.
The Bookery book sale area operated by the Friends group has larger quarters for its venture, which brings in $50,000 a year. Stained glass windows that were in the 1987 wing were saved and reused in this wing of the library.
Before deciding to renovate on West High Street, Rice said they had looked at a former Sprint building near a shopping center, which would have offered one floor and ample parking.
“But it wasn’t downtown where we wanted it to be. It would have changed the library as a walk-to place," she said. “Even though we were land-locked and needed a multi-floor plan, we still intended to stay here.”
Parking was the No. 1 question to be answered, since the library lost half of its parking spaces in the rear, and now has 22. In 2007, Borough Council said it build a metered lot with 75 to 100 spaces within a block, but that has yet to happen, Rice said. There is a parking garage behind the library, and metered spaces on the surrounding streets.
The $6.5 million project was paid for with a $2 million state grant, and the library raising the other $4 million. They started fundraising just as the economy tanked, but still successfully completed the nonprofit’s largest capital campaign the Carlisle area had ever seen.
They visited other libraries to find what features worked and didn’t work, and Rice said the project architect was told that "form follows function. “We told them, ‘You can make it pretty, after we make it work.’"
Flexibility has been built into the new library, so that as needs change, the library can respond. “We tried to build with the anticipation of moving things around,” Rice said, because nobody knows exactly what the library of the future will be like.