“Most people just walk in and say ‘wow’''
● By Steven Hoffman
On Tuesday, June 9, patrons got their first look at the new wing of the Oxford Public Library as the first phase of an expansion project is now complete.
“Most people just walk in and say, ‘wow,’” explained library director Carey Bresler of the new space. The expansion project is adding about 4,000 square feet of comfortable, well-lit space to the 230-year-old library, increasing the total size to 11,000 square feet.
Everyone was impressed by the results of the expansion project, which has transformed the look and feel of the building.
Greg Cox, an author who lives within walking distance of the library, is a frequent visitor. “It’s very cozy and it's nice to browse through the books,” he said. “I’m tempted to bring my laptop here and work.”
“It’s amazing. It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Linda Teal, the library’s circulation supervisor. “It’s been a long time in coming.”
Library officials have seen the need to renovate and expand the building at 48 South Second Street for more than a decade. It wasn’t until the library’s board of trustees started developing a plan and launched a new capital campaign in 2014 that the project gained momentum. A groundbreaking ceremony took place last October, and the construction work went smoothly.
“The trustees are ecstatic that, after ten years of planning and one day shy of eight months of construction, we can offer this to the community,” said Sue Cole, a member of the board of trustees. “We’re so excited.”
Everyone has a favorite spot in the newly renovated library. Allison Read, who serves on the library’s board of trustees, likes sitting next to the window that looks out on the library’s backyard. There’s a community garden out there. Read noted that this space is comfortable and full of light.
The new wing includes the Bradford Fraver Reading Lounge, a quiet space in the new part of the building that has magazines, newspapers, and a table. An anonymous donor requested the name of the reading room. Bresler said that the reading room is one of her favorite spots in the building.
“I really like this room—it is a cozy little nook for people to use,” she said, adding that she loves all the natural light that the new wing offers.
In the first few hours after the new wing officially opened, people browsed in the adult collection or utilized the new computer workstations. The expansion project, the first major renovation in over a decade, also includes a rear entrance to the building and a larger parking lot.
Bresler said that she is eager for more of the community to see the new wing. Plenty of activities are planned throughout the summer. On June 12, the library was hosting a summer kickoff party where children could come dressed up as their favorite superheroes. Then, on every subsequent Friday this summer, the library will be hosting a local hero who will talk to children about their roles in the community. The local heroes include Geoff Henry, the mayor of Oxford, a veterinarian, a nurse, a policeman, and a school principal.
“We wanted to show the kids that there are many ways to be a hero,” Bresler explained.
The days leading up to the opening of the new wing were hectic as library officials and a team of volunteers moved the adult collection to its new location. Bresler said that various groups helped out with the move, including the Cub Scouts pack 213, the Lions Club, the Leo Club, and many faithful patrons.
“We were able to do so much in three days,” Bresler explained.
Now that the adult collection has been relocated to the new wing, the next step is to move the young adult and children’s section upstairs to the space that previously housed the adult collection. That move is being delayed until after all the summer activities that are planned for children.
“We want the kids to have all their great programs throughout the summer,” Bresler explained, adding that they will be cleaning and painting the space that is currently empty until they move the children’s collection. Once the children’s collection is moved, the downstairs space will be used for community activities, local history materials, and perhaps a small store to sell used books. For years, the library has received many requests from community groups to hold meetings. Now, there will be enough space to accommodate those requests. The library will also be able to host bigger programs and activities throughout the year.
Bresler said that Nowland Associates, which handled the design and construction work on the project, has been “very responsive and very generous” throughout the whole process.
The community has also been very supportive. The library is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to pay for the $1.3 million expansion. Bresler said that they need to raise about $500,000.
She said that, as a result of the expansion project, the third-oldest library in Pennsylvania is better equipped to offer a welcoming space filled with modern information resources that meet the needs of the community. She said that residents should come in and see the results of the expansion project.
“Come in and see your library,” Bresler said. “It’s amazing.”