In the 1800s, the story goes that the first book collection at the Avon – then Northington – library was transported house to house on a wagon for people to select their next read, according to Virginia Vocelli, director.
The library has come a long way since then. After months of being closed for final facility renovations, patrons came in Monday for the reopening and saw how much the Avon library has changed since last year alone.
"I'm just excited to be seeing patrons enjoying themselves," Assistant Town Manager Steve Bartha said. "It's rewarding to know that the project came in not only under the original budget, but even under the revised budget and it still looks fantastic. We're all pretty happy and Ginny's all smiles."
Bartha estimated that the library renovation cost at least $800,000 less than what was approved – $8.7 million, adjusted from the $9.5 million that voters supported as a spending cap in 2009. The town is still processing invoices, he said.
The parking lot was packed by 10:30 a.m. on Monday. The drive-thru bookdrop lane was empty, awaiting its first patron.
Peter Sauerwein, of Avon, sat in the library's History Room on the first floor, in the morning perusing archives. The room is abundant with resources for researching town history. Old newspaper clippings, maps and information about previous and current Avon businesses are laminated and neatly organized in filing cabinets. Restaurant files even include some old recipes. The library houses a limited microfilm collection there.
A display case toward the front of the room will feature rotating exhibits – the premier showcase highlights Avon women during the Civil War.
Vocelli said that a major change in the library with the added space is that the revamped displays of books and movies make items easier to find.
"It's designed to have open space. One reason is to make it more flexible for changes down the road and also to be able to see, to see what's going on," Vocelli said. "But then there's plenty of nooks, book nooks, so that somebody can squirrel away, either with their laptop, kindle or book, reading in the corner, and have quiet time."
Big windows on both floors bring brightness into the rooms. Doors open from the ground level to a courtyard on the left side of the building, which will soon have potted plants, tables and chairs.
The cozy spaces inside, which include cushioned chairs, were some of the first features Avon resident Carolyn Kimball and her daughter, Piper, 5, noticed when they came to the library on Monday.
"She kept wanting to try out all the little nooks and crannies," Kimball said. "It's wonderful. We loved the new library so much, I was actually a little sad to see it go because my kids spent so much time in it, but this is marvelous. There's so much space. It used to be a little cramped during popular hours."
She also raved about the storytime room, which is partitioned into two and has more space. Piper's favorite spot was nearby – a playhouse built into the walls, complete with a model kitchen.
Kimball said that her two elder children – 9 and 11 years old – will soon enjoy the teen room, which has many tables for hanging out, Macs and PCs and an extensive teen book collection. If the 2012-13 town budget passes, the library will gain a teen librarian. Amber Lansing, the children's librarian, currently runs the teen programs.
Technology is another prime feature in the library.
When you first enter the lobby, the newest books are stationed near the entrance, followed by shelves of CDs, DVDs, foreign films and a new Blu Ray collection. The library is also offering Quick Flicks, popular movie titles that can only be checked out for a day at a time, making them more available, Vocelli said.
Some computers near the information desk are assigned to sections for research on business and legal, careers and consumers, health and wellness and education. Icons for the most useful databases relevant to a given field are on the computers designated to each category. Books and printed reference material on those subjects are available in the respective reference zones.
The whole building is outfitted with wireless. There are about 16 computers on the first floor, four of which are Macs, not counting 12 more in the computer lab. Soon there will also be a smart board in the computer lab.
"We'll be having instructional classes there for the community," Vocelli said of the computer lab. "Very focused at first, things like how to set up a Facebook page. We still have people who want to know how to do email. We have a new resident who came into town who does geneology. She offered to do a class on maybe ancestory.com."
In addition to classes, programming will return to the building. Thursday Movie Matinees, co-hosted with the Friends of the Avon Library and the , will move to the library's new Community Room in July, Vocelli said. Final touches are being done on the room, including projector installation. The wall, coated with a special paint, couples as a movie screen.
The room, which can be partitioned into two, will eventually be available for non-profit groups to reserve for meetings and events. The library's grand piano will be in the room, which will likely serve as a light musical entertainment venue from time to time. Vocelli said the library will also host speakers, including a Civil War program scheduled for May.
The official grand opening of the newly upgraded and expanded library will be on June 10 at 1 p.m.
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