Before the Walker Memorial Library closed for renovations in September, Judy Getchell took out about eight books, hoping they would keep her busy until the library re-opened.

“I could have used a couple dozen more,” she said Tuesday.

The renovations took longer than projected, and Getchell instead made trips to the Warren Library and borrowed books from her daughter. When Walker Memorial Library reopens at 10 a.m. Monday, Getchell knows right where she’ll be.

“I am so excited,” she said. “I really miss it.”

Closed for nearly five months, the library was renovated to fix leaky ceilings that plagued the building since an addition was made in 1989. The City Council approved a $1 million bond in July to fix the problems. Though the renovations were supposed to take only a couple of months – the library was originally expected to reopen in December – winter weather and delivery problems delayed construction, according to City Administrator Jerre Bryant. However, Bryant said, the total cost of improvements should come in about $200,000 under the projected price.

New skylights and ceilings that keep out the rain are two of several improvements Westbrook residents can expect from the Walker Memorial Library. In addition, the interior has been refurbished with new carpeting and furniture. The library has also implemented new software in its computer system, offering a more user-friendly way to navigate the collection. A new Web site is being launched this week, which will link residents to five new databases with information on car repair, test preparation, legal forms, antique pricing and medical advice.

“This is really very exciting to be able to offer the community a renovated space that is enhanced,” Karen Valley, director of the Walker Memorial Library, said last week.

Valley said she hopes the physical changes to the building will give the library a “warm and friendly feeling.”

New couches and coffee tables will provide comfortable sitting areas for patrons as they browse books and magazines. A new section of the first floor is dedicated to videos, DVDs and audio books on both cassettes and CDs.

One of the more prominent changes to the configuration of the library’s collection is an area specifically for teenagers. Four new computers in the teen center bring the library’s computer inventory to 18. Valley said there were just four when she started working there two years ago.

Valley said the library had been lacking in informational and recreational services for teens. Located across the street from Mission Possible Teen Center and within walking distance of the high school, the library, Valley said, has a lot of potential as an outlet for area youth.

“The new teen center is going to be a place to go online, do your homework, read, relax and enjoy the library as a young adult should,” said Lisa Wojcik, youth services librarian.

Though the library has been closed, Wojcik, Valley and the rest of its employees haven’t had trouble filling their time.

“We had a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” Valley said, including recataloging the collection and helping out at the Warren Library, which was “feeling the crunch” of the city’s larger library being closed.

The library’s newest employee, Jen Leo, head of circulation, has been hard at work preparing the library for joining MINERVA – Mapping the Internet Electronic Resources Archive – a statewide library consortium that links library collections and provides deliveries of inter-library materials.

As of March, patrons will have access to over 4 million titles from libraries throughout the state, which can be ordered online and picked up just days later at the Walker Memorial Library. The Walker library holds about 55,000 titles.

“It’s going to be a pretty big boost to us,” Leo said.

According to Valley, other libraries that have joined MINERVA have experienced a significant increase in business.

Leo has also been working on the Web site, which will allow card-carrying members of the library to renew items and view their record from home.

Though Leo, who was hired after the library closed, is excited about launching the new services, she said she is “really looking forward to meeting all of our patrons.”

According to Valley, all the employees are itching to get back to their routines.

“All the staff are really looking forward to it,” she said about the opening.

On March 1, from 1-4 p.m., an opening ceremony and re-dedication will be held at the library.

“It’s nice to say to the public, ‘Here it is,'” Valley said.

A CLOSER LOOK

An opening ceremony and rededication will be held at the Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook Saturday, March 1, from 1-4 p.m. The library reopens Monday after being closed for renovations for five months.

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