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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

Ellis Library, Reference Center opening Sunday

$2.5M makeover added 4,000 square feet

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In the new genealogy and local history area at Ellis Library and Reference Center, reference clerk Betty Risden shelves books. That area's space has more than doubled. In the new genealogy and local history area at Ellis Library and Reference Center, reference clerk Betty Risden shelves books. That area's space has more than doubled.
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MONROE -- Closed nine months for a $2.5 million makeover, Ellis Library and Reference Center is ready to roar back into service with a focus on the future.

The opening ceremony for the nearly 50-year-old library will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, which, fittingly, is the start of National Library Week.

The renovated library features stylish modern furniture and carpeting, fresh paint, new lighting and a two-story addition on the back with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows that provides vistas to the River Raisin and floods the library floors with natural light.

In all, 4,000 square feet were added to the library. The building was last remodeled in 2000.

Library System Director Nancy Colpaert said for the first time, every inch of the building is devoted and designed for patron use.

It now has more space for children and families as well as history enthusiasts and computer users.

"Ellis is both centrally located for our patrons and central to our countywide system," Mrs. Colpaert said.

"Its large general collection and number of special collections serve everyone, and it's home to our reference, circulation, and youth service operations."

The library's second floor, once home to the library's systems administrative office, now houses the local history archives and genealogy materials.

"This place has truly been transformed. Except for staff restrooms, everything is new and different," said Bill Reiser, circulation supervisor.

"We still have all the services in the library that we had before, but they have been enhanced. We also added some new things."

Circulation clerk Barb Zorn works in the new children's section at the Ellis Library and Reference Center. More space for children and families is a key feature of the building's $2.5 million renovation. Circulation clerk Barb Zorn works in the new children's section at the Ellis Library and Reference Center. More space for children and families is a key feature of the building's $2.5 million renovation.
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The library at 3700 South Custer Rd. is named after Edward Ellis, who in 1835 was the originator of the state constitution provision allocating penal fines to libraries.

With the remodeling, the library's official name was changed from Ellis Reference and Information Center to Ellis Library and Reference Center.

Mr. Reiser said "information" was dropped and replaced with "library" to more accurately reflect the building's purpose as a full-service library.

In moving up to the second floor, the space dedicated to local history and genealogy records has more than doubled and is accessible to patrons via new stairs, said Lou Komorowski, director of the reference center.

The local history has newspaper editions on microfilm going back to the 1820s from Monroe County.

It also has avarious years of the New York Times and Detroit papers and church, birth, and death records for Monroe County.

It has such records for areas in Ohio and Tennessee, too.

"We also have all types of materials on Monroe and also have a Michigan collection. That includes a large section on Great Lakes shipping, War of 1812, and a few things on the railroads," Mr. Komorowski said.

The reference center houses materials such as a regional site of Michigan's Small Business and Technology Center.

"We have business materials for people who are starting small businesses, including on how to do a business plan and research the market that they will be working within," Mr. Komorowski said.

The first floor has been redesigned and now has three times the number of public desktop computers and expanded areas for teens and young adults as well as reading space designed for children.

A book about Gen. George Armstrong Custer is one of many dedicated to local history in the library. He grew up in Monroe. A book about Gen. George Armstrong Custer is one of many dedicated to local history in the library. He grew up in Monroe.
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The library houses the General Custer collection, which contains rare books, magazines, and other materials that focus on the community's most famous one-time resident. Custer was an Army officer in the Civil War and the Indian wars.

The library is wired with Wi-Fi for computer users and has desktop computers for patrons to access the Internet.

Tables and chairs have been added to accommodate patrons who want to relax with a cup of coffee.

A new terrace outside the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks the river will be available later in the spring.

A multimedia programming room that provides seating for up to 100 people to view movies, attend lectures, or gather for meetings, without impacting other areas of the library is also new.

Mr. Reiser said the dedicated space will allow the library to expand programming activities.

"We definitely have got some irons in the fire as far as cool programs planned," he said.

Construction began last May in certain areas and the building closed July 16 for construction manager O'Neal Construction of Ann Arbor to begin work.



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