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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2001

Once-hidden book collection now accessible to the public

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Main Library added 85,000 square feet to its original 186,000-square-foot building during the downtown library's renovation and expansion, making it possible to display 75 percent of its collection. The extra space puts more than 750,000 of the 1.2 million items within reach of patrons.

Previously, only 25 percent of the library's holdings - books, CDs, magazines, local history materials, government documents, and more - were on public display, said Margaret Danziger, the library's deputy director.

To get to the 75 percent of the collection not displayed, librarians had to go down to two basement storage areas. Part of the area previously used to store books will be turned into a walkway with a caf and store.

Patrons such as Jerome Tomc said the expanded shelf space makes the library more user-friendly.

“It makes it easy to see what's in the collection and what's available,” the 58-year-old Maumee resident said. “I think the [old] collection was too cramped.”

The library's collection has been growing since the Toledo Young Men's Association built a library in the city in 1838. Now, the system ranks fifth in volumes among public libraries in Ohio.

In the past, patrons searching for a fiction title had access only to titles from maybe the last three years and a few popular authors. Busy librarians would check for requested items from the storage areas but that was not much help for those who prefer to browse.

The extra legroom means more space for the audio-visual collection as well. The library now has 7,000 square feet reserved for audio-visual materials, up from 2,000 square feet.

Previously, audio materials stored on the first floor were separate from the videos on the second floor.

“The old section was just too spread out and not very well organized,” said Bruce Kellow, a library user from Ottawa Hills. “It was just like a mess of tapes out there.”

The items now will be part of a combined, roomy department on the first floor of the original building.

The emphasis given to the department makes sense, according to library officials, given how often they are used.

“The A/V department circulates a little more than 50 percent of the main library's total circulation,” said Dorcel Dowdell, manager of the main library.

The library houses more than 17,000 videos and DVDs, 4,000 audiobooks, and 7,000 CDs, officials said.

Those who venture into the renovated library could initially find themselves overwhelmed by the number of items available, but it's all for the best, Ms. Danziger said.

“I think they'll soon feel comfortable looking at materials that they had no idea that we owned,” she said.



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