The Chico Public Library has seen quite a few changes in the past year, and apparently, people are taking notice.
In January, a record 1,817 patrons visited the library, located on the north side of the Chico Square. And it’s not a statistical oddity – the library has been averaging more than 1,500 visitors each month since it reopened last August after about a month of renovation work.
The work included replacing the floor, texturing and papering the walls, painting, electrical work, replacing the interior storefront and installation of new furniture. The storefront work was performed by Mann Made Homes, and the new floor was installed by Affordable Straight Concrete.
Last November, the aging storefront of the library received new windows and framing. The drab brown and tan paint that greeted visitors was replaced with more vibrant colors such as a pumpkin-colored orange and cream. Purple was added to the front wall of the interior.
In all, close to 700 hours of volunteer labor went into the renovations, said Michelle Slonaker, library board president.
“We had a good group of teenagers and adults who came and helped us out, probably about 30 volunteers,” Slonaker said. “… We had kids who were walking by and saw what we were doing and came in to help us out of the blue. I think it’s given our kids and the people who helped out a sense of ownership in the library, and they are happy with how it’s turned out.”
Chico middle and high school students were issued iPads this year, and many come by the library after school to use the free wifi service. Even when the library is closed, you’ll see people parked out front, using the wifi service.
Many adults also use the library’s computers to search for jobs, fill out job applications online or use software to learn a new language, Slonaker said.
“We try to make it where people can come in and they don’t have to feel like they are in here just to get a book and leave,” she said. “They come in and they visit, hang out and have a good time.”
Another factor in the increased traffic is the extended hours. The library is now open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
More improvements are planned. The library should hear next month if they’ve been awarded a grant from the Tocker Foundation, which supports rural libraries in Texas. A $39,575 grant from the foundation last year helped fund the renovations.
“Phase 3” of the renovation plan includes renovating the back room. Slonaker said the library would also like to add a patio to the back of the building where patrons can come to use the wifi service when the library isn’t open.
In addition to grants, the library also holds fundraisers and accepts donations. A book sale is planned for the first week of March at Chico City Hall. More than 5,000 books will be available for purchase.
For more information on the library or how you might donate to the ongoing renovation projects, call 940-644-2330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.