After 7 years, the Mitchell Public Library puts the finishing touches on updates – Mitchell Republic


MITCHELL – It’s been a long time coming, and there’s been some bumps along the way, but the shelves at the Mitchell Public Library are finally complete.

Workers spent part of Tuesday and Wednesday attaching end panels to the rows of bookshelves, completing a look first envisaged seven years ago when the library underwent a major renovation, expansion and redesign.

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

The end panels were originally intended to be installed with the shelves, which were part of a $2.3 million expansion project that expanded the common room, enlarged the main library section on the east side of the building, and expanded the work space. It also called for a new loan desk, upgraded computer equipment, and improved lighting, among many other improvements.

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

“The end plates were part of the original design, but budget constraints just didn’t allow it,” said Kenkel. “It bought all the new shelving but not the end panels that complete it.”

In March, the Mitchell Public Library board of trustees approved nearly $28,000 to secure the plaques and complete the work. The money came from the library committee fund, which is used primarily to cover the library’s program costs but is also used for occasional capital projects.

Kenkel said he is grateful to the board who released the funds and to former library director Jackie Hess for their efforts to date and the vision they have offered.

“[Hess]has applied for grants from the city over the years and they just haven’t been approved. And I want to commend the Board of Trustees for approving the funding. They agreed to this priority. They get credit for the funding,” Kenkel said.

Here is a side panel of a bookshelf at the Mitchell Public Library without the new side panels on Thursday September 15, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

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

The end panels cover the sides of the bookshelves, covering the industrial-style metallic structure below and appearing in a variety of bright colors. The panels allow for enhanced signage to help staff and visitors find the books they are looking for, and also allow for the display of additional books at the ends of the shelves.

The sleek, colorful ends add a more finished feel to the room. Kenkel compared the original shelving arrangement to installing doors on a house without installing the paneling for 7 years, leaving a gap between the door and the wall.

It’s a small addition compared to the overall refurbishment project it was originally part of, but the panels will have a major impact on how easily staff can get their jobs done and they will also improve the environment for visitors. Library organization and referencing should be improved, and a welcoming, comfortable space benefits everyone who uses the library, Kenkel said.

“It completes the library and with the new design we can now also use the end walls to display signs for future events or the ability to display books on the end walls,” said Kenkel.

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Here is one of the new front panels at the Mitchell Public Library on Thursday 15th September 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Once the work is complete, Kenkel said the library is considering further improvements suggested in a recent survey of library visitors. Library officials are reviewing these suggestions to see what further steps they can take to improve the facility’s capabilities.

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

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

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