Library renovation still in the demolition phase

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Workers at the Shelter Island Public Library are creating a new entrance on the back of the building.

Two months after breaking ground on a renovation project to create more usable space without actually expanding the Shelter Island Public Library, workers are still in the process of demolition, according to Library Director Denise DiPaolo.

“The first phase of renovation is not very glamorous — a lot of dust, a lot of banging,” Ms. DiPaolo said of the project, which is targeted to cost under $800,000, all of it from fundraising and grants. “When you see walls going up instead of coming down, that’s when it’s real,” she said.

She quoted one of her board members as having said, “You have to crack an egg before you can make an omelet.”

A new entrance has been broken through a wall to provide easy access to the downstairs program room. It will ultimately include a new program room, book sale room, gallery, moveable bookshelves, furniture, storage space and restrooms. An elevator will be installed for those library users who have difficulty with stairs, Ms. DiPaolo said.

The new entryway to the lower level will lead outside to a reading and activities space so residents can see some of the activities going on and “know that the library’s alive,” she said.

Today’s libraries are no longer just quiet spaces to read, she noted. They really have become community centers, but on Shelter Island, she’s been unable to use program space effectively without disturbing those who are there to read or do research.

When a program is under way on the main floor, readers and researchers are likely to leave, feeling they are disturbing the activity, she said.

“The last thing you want to do when you’re a librarian is have someone leave without a smile on their face,” Ms. DiPaolo said, explaining the frustrations users experience with the current space.

While there will be bookshelves in the downstairs space, they’ll be moveable so they can be arranged to accommodate programs while books will still be available to those who want to use them, she said.

As for the disruption caused by the construction, “When you have a real project that you feel very passionate about, it’s very easy” to deal with temporary disruptions, Ms. DiPaolo said.

The Shelter Island community has been very supportive, she said, allowing the library to use meeting space at St. Mary’s, the Presbyterian Church, the Center firehouse and school during the renovations.

When the new space is unveiled, users will see another major change in how books are arranged. In a departure from the old Dewey Decimal System, those looking for books will find them arranged by subject matter, not numbers, making them easier to locate. (Library Board President Jo-Ann Robotti described the change in her column in the September 1, 2011 edition of the Reporter.)

Again, library staffers are working hard at the conversion, Ms. DiPaolo said, making Shelter Island only the second Suffolk County library to make the conversion away from the Dewey system.

“Let’s be trendsetters and take the plunge,” she said about the decision to reorder the library’s book collection.

A much larger plan to expand the library building  and pay for it through bonding was rejected by voters in 2008. The current scaled-back project is being funded through grants, fundraising activities and individual contributions. Voters turned down the proposed bonding in October 2008, the same time that the stock market crashed.