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While cramped, the library lives on
by Jacob Lane · August 02, 2012


It’s been a difficult journey for the West Liberty Library, but as the dog days of summer hit stride a new normal has fallen into place.

“It’s like before, our library is a social place,” Library Director Janette McMahon said regarding the public’s response, but space remains to be the biggest issue.

“It’s completely full,” she added. “I don’t think people quite understand what we’re working with here.”

The original location closed May 15 following recommendations from Cedar Rapids based Shive Hattery Architecture and Engineering due to accumulated water damage sustained by improper construction 10 years ago.

All 20,000 books were moved to the temporary Century Grille location on Third Street. It’s a small place with only a few rooms to fit all of the content. The entire back part, a kitchen, is unusable because it’s just too small and cramped.

However, faculty is working their hardest to get around the issue.

For instance, the adult book collection is tightly packed into boxes. The public can request specific books from it, to which the library staff can retrieve, but they can’t openly browse the content.

Also, historic city and organization documents are being stored on tops of shelves and in various nooks and crannies throughout the building. Because of this, the overall temperature is kept at a cool and consistent 70 degrees.

“Our collection is one of a kind and we have to take care of it,” McMahon said. Before, special documents were kept in a separate room. Extra fragile documents are kept in freezers in the back.

The library was also forced to cut back the number of available computers from 20 to six. Long lines to log in are now an everyday battle.

However, strides have been taken to get the library back to its former glory. Both a copy machine and microfilm machine are now available. The staff is working on getting a proper book return installed.

All children’s and youth books can be browsed. The library’s entire collection of DVDs, Blue-rays, and video games can be checked out as well.

They’ll be bringing in a new children’s librarian next week. Rebecca Troup-Hodgson, from Iowa City, will do all programming and collection development for 6th grade students and younger.

But even with the progress that’s been made, many can’t help but miss the old location. Library staff and patrons can’t wait for construction on the permanent location to finally be done.

However, if there’s one thing the public will miss it’s the booths. “The kids love them,” McMahon said. “They ask me if we can take them with us when we move back.”

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