The Brentwood Public Library has grown in annual attendance from 45,000 to 65,00 in the past three years, according to head librarian, Vicki Woods. “We’re just popping out at the seams,” she said in an interview at the library on Wednesday. “We’re a victim of our own success.”
She said it’s 6,000 square feet, about half the size of Maplewood’s. The cities have similar populations.
After school 15-20 students go to the teen space, once an underused reference room. The childrens room has one computer, and there’s no room for another.
A row of stacks were removed to add study carrels; lots of tutoring goes on. Books older than three years are moved out to make room for new ones. “If it hasn’t moved in three years it goes,” she said.
Woods also said the one meeting room holds only 15, making holding programs there impractical. They use the Brentwood rec center, receiving a 50 percent discount.
She said she knows people will ask why can’t the library just expand into unused parts of the building. Parts of the basement, the garage and the whole second floor, once the police and fire departments, are now vacant.
“There’s no windows, it’s wet, there’s five steps there and a step here and even more steps up there, and it’s ugly on top of it,” Woods said of the former police department. Old magazines, craft projects and books they plan to to sell are stored there. Architects have said the cost to rehab it for public use would be too high.
She said it’s been suggested to make the former fire department garage into a teen room, but said it would require a second entrance and more staff, which makes it unfeasible.
As far as ideas for the library’s crowding problem, she said the library board has come up with some creative possibilities, but they’re not ready to say more until more details have been worked out.