New Director Rosemary Bebris reshelves a book at Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK — New Director Rosemary Bebris wants to expand Walker Memorial Library’s offerings to reflect patrons’ lifestyles and needs, and she plans to get community input to do so.

With the library board and the Friends of the Walker Memorial Library, Bebris is working to create surveys and workshops to find out what types of materials and items people would like the library to lend, even if those items are outside the box of traditional library offerings. New Gloucester’s public library, for example, has a borrowable array of 60 cake pans.

Once thought of as stuffy and silent, modern libraries, including Westbrook’s, is now more of a workspace, with computers, conference rooms and meeting areas. They lend out video games, movies, CDs and, of course, books.

With the library’s shifting role, Bebris wants to expand even more.

“Libraries have this magical ability to serve anyone who comes in, no matter who it is,” Bebris said. “With our computers and workspaces, libraries really have become an anchor for the community. We are now talking about involving the community to learn how we can be even better.”

Some libraries lend snowshoes and other sports equipment and Durham’s library has a telescope it loans, she said.

“We really want to bring in something like that, but we want to know exactly what the community wants,” Bebris said. “Public libraries have been working hard to become more accessible to the community. A working person may not come to pick up some novels, but they may be looking for our four meeting spaces if they have their own business or need to get some work done, or a family may need some equipment for a day out.”

City Administrator Jerre Bryant agrees.

“Our library is a key feature of our city and certainly our downtown. It’s a greatly utilized resource in our city, whether that is for recreation or for learning or work,” Bryant said.

Bebris, who lives in Kennebunk, says she wants to build on what she sees as the Walker library’s success.

“One of the cool things we offer now is a sensory storytime kit for children who are on the spectrum and are more sensitive to certain things,” Bebris said.

Librarian Karen Spear readies a video game to be shipped to another library through the Minerva Consortium. Chance Viles / American Journal

She also notes that the library is part of Minerva, a consortium of nearly 60 public, academic, school and special libraries in the state. Between each library, over 6 million items are available to borrow and can be returned at any participating library. The consortium includes Gorham, Cape Elizabeth and Windham.

“These existing programs are certainly what attracted me to Westbrook and to the job,”  said Bebris, who was previously a library director in Pelham, New Hampshire.

Bebris is also is working on restoring Saturday staff hours, which were cut over the past few years.

“I appreciate the city’s commitment to the library, which is rare. We will be working hard to expand and become even more of an anchor for the residents,” she said.

A patron works at a computer at the library. Chance Viles/American Journal

Through the Minerva consortium, items borrowed from the Westbrook library can be returned at a number of other libraries in the consortium, including Cape Elizabeth and Gorham. Chance Viles/American Journal

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