GRANITE CITY — Three years ago, Jennifer Conroy joined the staff of the Six Mile Library District as youth services manager.
During that time, the library district was making plans on renovating its downtown library branch at 2001 Delmar Ave., including the youth services department.
“I had a lot to do with it, so I thought throughout a process of building basically an entire new space,” Conroy said. “So I wasn’t one of the people who walked in and saw it after the fact. I saw it as an ongoing process, but I have to say that as for the finished product, I loved it.”
The library finished its renovation in August 2014. The youth services department has two extra rooms, a new reference desk and a training and events room.
A year later, Conroy still loves the new youth services room.
“It was a very exciting project and the thought of being able to be part of that is very exciting for me, especially where I am in my career,” Conroy said.
The library celebrated its one-year anniversary of its renovation Aug. 25. In addition to the new and expanded youth services floor, the library has a new main-floor circulation desk, a new computer lab, two new elevators, new restrooms on each floor, a study room with local history books and a new microfilm machine.
The library was temporarily located at Niedringhaus Elementary before returning to its new renovated building to Delmar Avenue last year.
Conroy said the new youth services floor impressed one of the children when it first opened.
“The first week we opened, we took quotes from kids as soon as they entered the room,” Conroy said. “We wrote them all down and my favorite quote from the kids was the one from a 6-year-old, ‘I love it so much that I want to hug it.’ So what we did is we collected these quotes from the kids for about a week and posted them on Facebook.”
As for the parents, it was a different story.
“There was a lot of emotion with some of the parents who have grown up here,” Conroy said. “It was an emotional thing with them because they’re used to the library they grew up with. But they were happy with it.
“Now, everyone has accepted it and we get compliments all of the time. It’s so much more wide open. The space is much more usable. We’ve gained two new rooms.”
One of the new rooms is the Teen Room, which includes the youth adult books, a flat-screen television and computers.
“The teens have their own area,” Conroy said. “Anyone, though, is allowed to browse books and check out. Myself as an adult, my favorite books are the young adult books. Not because I’m a librarian, but these days, there are a lot of young adult novels that adults are interested in because they’re written for older students and they’re really well-written. That’s a big movement in the library world.”
The other new room is the Early Learning Room, which has toys and books targeted for children in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school.
“The younger kids are beside themselves as far as the early learning room, and that’s another space we’ve gained,” Conroy said. “That’s the old meeting room, so that’s where the board meetings and the manager meetings were occurred before we had the training and events room.”
Conroy said the youth services department having its own desk has been helpful.
“We do so many more reference questions and so much more readers’ advisory,” the youth services manager said. “In the old building, the point of access with the youth services staff was the circulation desk. We didn’t have a reference desk in the main area, which is different, but we made it happen. In the past, we didn’t do as much reference because we were so busy checking out books. It was a bit of a change, but we all made it through.”
Conroy said Trivers Associates, an architecture firm, helped come up with plans of remodeling the youth services floor.
“They were leading a project for the arrangement of the room, but they consulted with me,” Conroy said. “They have of course consulted with the director (Tina Hubert). She was the main person. For years, they would invite me in and ask for my opinion. At some point, I was able to work with the director to select the furniture. Trivers came up with the floor. That was their initial idea. They created the main youth services help desk. Most of the furnishings and layout were all us and we worked together as a team. I’m very happy with it.”
Conroy has more than 10 years of library experience. She worked at the youth services department for the St. Louis Public Library for approximately seven years before coming to Granite City June 18, 2012.
“I really see that the library is a place for information,” Conroy said. “It’s also a place to provide educational opportunities and it’s also a place for children and adults to gather. It can be a place for exchange for ideas, and I think that is a wonderful thing.”
The Youth Services Department is having three events in September — Family PJ Storytime, Pet Rock Decoration and Wii Gaming. Children 5 and younger are invited to come to a storytime session from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday in their pajamas at the Johnson Road location. The Pet Rock Decoration is from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Training and Events Room for students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Wii Gaming will be held at the Teen Room for junior high and high school students from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday.
For information, call (618) 452-6238, ext. 307.