WRITTEN BY GREGG L. PARKER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Among its many assets, Madison now has a 21st-Century library that houses more than books. The library is opening minds to new interests and learning.
The new building combines both a library and a community center, according to Branch Manager Sarah Sledge. The facility “gives our patrons a place to connect with one another in person and the world at large through technology over shared interests.”
“Whether it’s work related, reading for pleasure, attending an informational presentation or discovering a new pursuit, the library is a place where people can find connections and network for lifelong learning,” Sledge said.
“Residents of Madison can find their community at the library,” Sledge said.
With Madison’s proliferation of young families, the Children’s Area sees high volumes of people traffic every day. The library’s new department for children offers a separate program room for storytime and other youth events. ‘Sunny’ and ‘spacious’ are fitting adjectives for the Children’s Area.
“The Children’s Department is full of natural light with open ceilings, cheerful colors and lots of comfortable seating throughout,” Sledge said. “A bright, interactive geometric neighborhood provides a primary focus in our interactive area complete with a puppet theater, Author Corner and other interactive manipulatives and puzzles.”
Customized shelving for children’s books “makes browsing for a great book accessible for even the youngest readers,” Sledge said.
Library officials heard a resounding request for one improvement to the former building: “More meeting space!” Patrons constantly asked for the amenity of extra room to accommodate small groups of people. “We have two new staff members who handle operations and reservations for new meeting rooms,” Sledge said about the new employees, who started working in March 2018.
“Meeting space was identified as a community priority for the new library and our design team pulled out all the stops to make it a reality. Library patrons can now reserve private study rooms for small meetings, test taking or quiet study,” Sledge said.
The library’s 3,000 square feet of meeting space can accommodate up to 225 people in an auditorium layout. A retractable wall allows configuration into two smaller spaces for up to 75 and 150 people. Sleek new tables and chairs make the space inviting and comfortable.
For conferences and meeting setups, ceiling-mounted projectors, speakers and assorted microphones are ideal. “Interest to rent the space for after-hours use for private receptions and celebrations is already high,” Sledge said.
A breakthrough in modern innovation, the MakerSpace area contains impressive equipment, powered by savvy minds of library users to embark on one-of-a-kind projects. “A space for possibility. A space for imagination. A space for growth. A space to learn,” Sledge said in describing MakerSpace.
“The Madison Public Library’s Makerspace, aptly named ‘The Studio,’ is a space for our community to get creative. Featuring a collection that includes everything from sewing machines to 3D printers, our mixed-use MakerSpace is one of infinite possibility where patrons can cultivate business ideas, blow off steam creatively, explore possibilities through rapid prototyping … and hopefully learn something new,” Sledge said.
“Libraries are much more than just books. Our Studio shows that with its exciting and cutting-edge technology that we hope will serve our community as an incubator for ideas,” Sledge said. Anne Wood, the library’s Studio Specialist, is working closely with MakerSpace projects.
Librarians and staff members are thrilled “to have such a fabulous place to come to work every day,” Sledge said. “Seeing the enthusiasm of the community visiting the building for the first time is energizing beyond words.”
The new drive-through drop-off window for books and media applied a simple idea for “a win for everyone,” Sledge said. Librarians no longer need to exit the building with carts to gather returned items, and patrons have an easy convenience. “The new book drop expedites the check-in process for customers and allows library staff to spend time working with the public to connect with technology, great books and other new library experiences.”
For months to come in 2018, the library staff currently is planning an Outdoor Film Series for adults and children that will be broadcast in the spacious, exterior patio area.
Madison Public Library’s address is 142 Plaza Boulevard. For more information, call 256-461-0046 or visit hmcpl.org, Facebook/Madison Public Library or Twitter # librarymadison.