Renovating and expanding the Oregon City Public Library, a project completed last year, has racked up three major honors in the past few months.
1. At Restore Oregon's annual celebration on Nov. 10, Oregon City Library Director Maureen Cole accepted the "DeMuro Award for Excellence in Preservation, Reuse and Community Revitalization" for the city having "constructed a stunning, yet compatible, addition that tripled the space while retaining the original historic structure."
2. Then the Daily Jounal of Commerce awarded Oregon City's library second place among the top public projects completed in 2016, a testament to designing an addition nearly three times the size of the original without overshadowing or obscuring the original 1913 structure on the National Register of Historic Places. By placing the addition behind the original Carnegie library, the original entrance is preserved, while a new main entrance connects the old and new structures with a two-story glass atrium.
3. And the national 2017 Library Design Showcase recognized Scott Edwards Architecture for its work on the addition and renovation.
The showcase, hosted by American Libraries magazine, is the annual celebration of new and renovated libraries across the United States and Canada. Of 60 submissions to this year's competition, 15 were selected for the showcase. The chosen libraries can be viewed online and also were featured in the publication's September/October issue.
Scott Edwards Architecture designed the 14,000-square-foot addition to the Oregon City Public Library at 606 John Adams St. A former exterior masonry wall now serves as a connection between the old and the new in the central two-story lobby space. Conducted in two phases, the project also included renovations and seismic upgrades to the existing 104-year-old structure. The new addition also contains community meeting rooms, as well as a large children's reading area.
"Scott Edwards Architecture's attention to detail and response to our community comments is reflected throughout the new library, from the delicate touch at the joining of the historic Carnegie Library and new addition, to the soaring, light-filled foyer, to the second-floor views. And we know the community loves it as evidenced by increased door count from 15,000 to 41,000 visitors per month," Cole said.
Part of the renovation, self-checkout machines were funded mostly through the city's capital funds, but also with a contribution from the county library network for radio frequency identification technology. All LINCC libraries have upgraded to the technology and have the machines.
"Patrons and staff alike are thrilled with the new self-checks," said OC Library Operations Supervisor Denise Butcher. "They are much faster than our old self-checks, as they are able to check out multiple items at one time. Patrons also may access their library accounts from the self-checks to see what materials they have checked out, renew items and see their account balances."
In general, Cole said that RFID has given patrons more control over the check-out process, while allowing library staff to focus more on patrons than back-of-office work.
"It has also sped up certain processes for us, such as checking items out and checking items in," Cole said. "It has reduced certain motions which can cause repetitive motion injuries."
Oregon City, Lake Oswego and the county library network office also have installed an automated materials handler (AMH) to process returns. Materials are then sorted for shelving, holds or items going to other LINCC libraries.
"Patrons benefit from the AMH in that their returns are automatically taken off of their accounts, and they can print a receipt of their returns, if they wish," Butcher said. "The time savings from staff not having to handle every item allows us to keep up with the added volume we're seeing in the new library, and benefits patrons by having staff available to help them in other ways."
Oregon City staff members have worked hard to help patrons make the transition as easy as possible and continue to help patrons at both the new self-checkouts and at the AMH.
"We feel we're now able to have better one-on-one interactions with our patrons, as we're available to greet patrons coming in and out of the library, rather than being tied to a desk," Butcher said.
Initially there were some items being checked out or returned that had not been tagged yet, but those are rare at this point, unless they have been out of the library for some time.
"One added benefit of the AMH is that patrons are alerted immediately if they have forgotten to put a DVD in the case or if they are accidentally returning items that belong to another county or school library," Butcher said. "Staff time is saved by not having to contact patrons to alert them of the missing pieces."
The Business Tribune contributed to this report.