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After 7 years, Mitchell Public Library puts on finishing touches to updates

The new addition, originally planned years ago, should improve visitor and employee experience.

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Shown here are the new colored face panels for the children's section on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, at the Mitchell Public Library.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — It’s been a long time coming, and there were some bumps along the way, but the shelving at Mitchell Public Library is finally complete.

Workers spent part of Tuesday and Wednesday installing end panels on its bookshelf rows, completing a look that was first envisioned seven years ago when the library underwent a major renovation, expansion and redesign.

“The library staff is smiling,” said Kevin Kenkel, library director for the Mitchell Public Library.

The end panels were originally intended to be installed with the shelving that was part of a $2.3 million expansion project that expanded the community room, added space to the main part of the library on the east side of the building, and expanded its work room. It also called for a new circulation desk, improved computer equipment, and enhanced lighting, among many other improvements.

But the end panels on the bookshelves were delayed due to budget concerns, and in the seven years since the expansion was completed, library officials finally have the last piece of the puzzle in place.

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“The end panels were part of the original design, but because of budget issues, it just didn’t allow for it,” Kenkel said. “There was all new shelving purchased but not the end panels that finish it off.”

In March, the Mitchell Public Library Board of Trustees approved just under $28,000 to secure the panels and complete the work. The money came from the library board fund, which is primarily used to cover library programming expenses but is also used for the occasional capital project.

Kenkel said he was grateful for the board releasing the funds and to former library director Jackie Hess for her past efforts and the vision she provided.

“(Hess) requested funding over the years from the city and it just wasn’t approved. And I want to give credit to the board of trustees for approving the funding. They agreed with this priority. They get credit for the funding,” Kenkel said.

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Shown here is a side panel of a bookshelf at the Mitchell Public Library without the new panel faces on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Even after funding was approved and the materials ordered, there were still a few hiccups in the process. The initial shipment of panels from the manufacturer in July arrived so damaged that the library rejected the shipment. The second batch arrived last week undamaged and were finally installed this week.

The end panels cap the sides of the bookshelves, covering the metallic, industrial-style structure underneath, and appear in a variety of bright colors. The panels will allow for improved signage to help employees and visitors find the books they are looking for, and will also allow for the display of additional books on the ends of the shelves.

The smooth, colorful ends give the space a more completed feel. Kenkel likened the original shelf arrangement to installing doors on a house but not installing the trim for 7 years, leaving a gap between the door and the wall.

It’s a small addition compared to the overall renovation project of which it was originally a part, but the panels will make a big impact on the ease of which employees do their job and will also enhance the environment for visitors. Library organization and referencing should improve, and an inviting, comfortable space benefits everyone who utilizes the library, Kenkel said.

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“It finishes off the library, and we’re also able, with the new design, to now use the end panels for displaying signs for future events, or the ability to display books on the end panels,” Kenkel said.

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Shown here is one of the new face panels at the Mitchell Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

With the work completed, Kenkel said the library is considering other improvements suggested by a recent survey of library patrons. Library officials are reviewing those suggestions to see what further steps they can take to enhance features at the facility.

“There are a couple of ideas that we are considering from the survey,” Kenkel said.

The Mitchell Public Library, located at 221 N. Duff Street, is now observing its winter hours. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It is also open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

More information can be found at www.cityofmitchell.org/156/Library .

The number of people utilizing all of the library’s services and programs jumped by more than 16,000 in 2020 compared to 2019, according to Emma DeVos, a member on the library's board of trustees.

Related Topics: MITCHELL
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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