It’s been a hectic transition for South Coastal Library Director Sue Keefe and her employees to convert all of their materials from life in 10,000 square feet to only 3,000 square feet, but they’ve done it.
The library has been situated for more than a month now at its new, if temporary, location in Creekside Plaza beside the Food Lion in Millville, as Nason Construction prepares to expand the Kent Avenue location in Bethany Beach to 21,500 square feet.
Although it’s been a shaky start in Millville, Keefe said she is excited to be back on track, and she and her crew are making the most of what they have.
“It has been quieter,” she said, “but people are happy we’re back. Everyone’s been very understanding.” Despite some speed bumps along the way, Keefe said she is pleased to see familiar faces returning, as well as some new ones visiting the Millville location who had never previously gone to the library in Bethany.
One of the drawbacks to the new building was limited Internet capability and establishing a new online connection. Many customers who traditionally use the library for Internet access will be pleased to hear that online admission will soon be back up.
“We’re thinking that we may be up and wired again by next week,” Keefe said. “They’re working on it right now. If all goes to plan, it could even be sooner.”
Children’s programs are still running, though spaces are limited due to the reduced size of the building. On Wednesdays from 10 until 10:30 a.m. are lap-sit events for infants to 2-year-olds, with a program for 3- to 6-year-olds following from 10:30 until 11 a.m. Both storytime events remain open for drop-ins, but the limited space in Millville could cause that to change.
“If we start hitting that limit, as instructed by the fire marshal,” said Keefe, “it becomes a safety concern. If that happens, we may have to have registration for attendance.”
On Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., the library will still hold children’s programs from infants through 6-year-olds, despite the loss of a children’s room. “People are still coming, though,” she said, “so it’s nice.”
The library’s adult programs, on the other hand, are taking to the road.
“We are bringing Art in the Afternoon back,” Keefe said. “We’d have a lot of people at those — sometimes 60 or 80 — and everyone seems to enjoy those.”
Unfortunately, the Creekside Plaza space cannot accommodate those kinds of numbers. So through the winter months, Bethany Beach Town Hall and local churches have been proposed locations for possible gatherings. “Books and Breakfast,” a discussion group on various novels and authors, plans to start back up, with meetings at Good Earth Market in Millville.
“We’re trying to get it together here first, so we can take our show on the road,” said Keefe.
Much to the disappointment of fans, the library’s foreign film festival will not be held this season, as the size of the current location won’t accommodate it and only library facilities are licensed to show the festival films.
“For now,” said Keefe, “I’m just going to stockpile them up, so we will have plenty once we reopen in the new building, including some indie films.”
Though library staff anticipated that the new location would be a deterrent to traffic, Keefe has been pleasantly surprised.
“We’ve noticed a lot of kids and students coming in after school,” she said. “That’s nice to see them coming in. It’s closer. People also make a habit of stopping by to grab a book while they’re out getting groceries. It’s nice that way.”
With a prime location close to Lord Baltimore Elementary, library programs are easier to assemble for the children. “We’ve heard a lot of people tell us that we are closer to them now,” she added, “so that’s bringing new people in, too.”
The library has also been providing visitors with pharmacy discount drug cards, which through a county program allow those without health insurance to take an additional 20 percent off prescriptions. Under the program, discounts are also available for those with insurance who don’t receive coverage on specific prescriptions.
“They’ll even take off if you need to go to the pharmacy to get something for your pet,” Keefe said. “Those cards are helping to bring in a lot of people, and it really makes your county dollars work for you.”
The Friends of South Coastal Library are currently in the process of raising $2.4 million in a three-year capital campaign to help raise their promised portion of construction costs for the expanded library in Bethany Beach.
Construction on the new South Coastal Library and Freeman Cultural Center (named in honor of the late Joshua Freeman) — which will better than doubling in original space — is now set to begin within a month, after an error in the bidding process put construction on hold for three weeks. Finances for the project improved during the hiatus, though, as the new construction bid was some $400,000 less than the previous winning bid from the same company.
The library, at its current Millville location, was also able to retain the same phone number, (302) 539-5321, and the same mailing address, 43 Kent Avenue.
“We’ll keep using that address unless it gets knocked down in construction. Then, we’ll have to consider a P.O. box,” Keefe said.
The library is open Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.; Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.; and Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information about children’s and adult programs, call the library or stop in at 203 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 9, in Millville’s Creekside Plaza, beside House Pets.