If all goes according to plan, Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library patrons should see the start of a major renovation of the library's parking lot this spring.

"This year, big things are happening at the library and one of the biggest is going to be a game changer -- increasing parking spaces for our library patrons," Library Executive Director Doug Dotterer told the Stow Sentry Jan.24.

Dotterer said the library is seeking contractor bids for the project, with plans to select a winning bidder in February and have a start date "tentatively" in April.

If that schedule holds, said Dotterer, the project should be completed by early fall, sooner if the weather cooperates.

Dotterer said that although things could change, it is estimated that the number of parking spaces will be increased from about 142 to about 175.

"Over the last several years, the library continues to get busier and busier every year and one of the great complaints we're hearing constantly is how people can't find parking spaces," said Dotterer.

The plan is to increase spaces through a combination of reconfiguring the lot, as well as using additional land the library purchased on Beech Street, just west of the library's parking lot, for $73,490 in December 2015. A small house and garage on the lot have since been demolished.

Dotterer said that currently, the entire project is estimated at between $500,000 and $600,000. The money is coming out of the library's reserve fund, which Dotterer said in April 2016 "is money we have carefully saved over the years." Library Fiscal Officer Linda Sutherland said that as of Jan. 26, the fund was at nearly $1.24 million.

Dotterer said Jan. 24 that the project is not just about increasing parking, although that is the primary reason.

"We're putting in new drains to address flooding issues, we're putting in new lighting, new landscaping," he said.

Dotterer said the "complete redo" of the parking lot will be done in two phases so that there will always be some parking available in the lot throughout the project.

In addition, the library is trying its best to carefully plan events and it has made arrangements with First Christian Church on the other side of Route 91 to use the church's lot for overflow parking at times when the church is not using it. Patrons also can use side streets for parking.

Ann Malthaner, the library's marketing and public relations manager, said the library is also looking at conducting some programs "off site" during the project period, such as doing story times for children in a park.

"We're just trying to come up with some creative thinking," she said.

Other happenings

While the parking lot revamp is a huge undertaking, there are other things going on, too, including:

The library has a new "Tween Spot" within the second floor children's section. Malthaner said it is to fill in a gap for kids ages 9 to 12.

"It really has created a cozy niche area and tweens are really gravitating toward this spot," she said. "It's nice because for kids that don't really want to go down by themselves to the teen spot, yet they feel they're too grownup to be in the children's spot. It's really a perfect spot for them."

It is being funded by the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library Foundation and a private donation and includes new lighting, shelving and furniture and $500 worth of age appropriate materials, including books, DVDs and CDs.

"We're really excited and hope this takes off," said Dotterer. "It's a place where tweens can meet and read and we hope it's successful."

The library is updating a second floor meeting room, behind the children's section's main desk.

"We're calling it the Community Room," said Dotterer.

New furniture, which Malthaner estimated will cost roughly $7,500, is to be paid for out of a $15,000 donation. Computers in the room are either going to be "repurposed around the library," said Dotterer, or sold at auction.

Businesses will be charged for use of the room while non-profit organizations will be able to book it for free. Dotterer said the room should be ready for use sometime in March.

Dotterer said that as a "six-month pilot project," the library is extending its outreach program to the "underserved residents" of Stow-Kent Gardens, an apartment complex near the southwest corner of the Graham and Fishcreek roads intersection.

"We're bringing library services to them," said Dotterer.

This includes outreach staffers taking materials to residents, as they do to the nearby Key Towers apartments and area assisted living facilities. Story times will also be presented at the apartments.

"We'll see where this takes us," said Dotterer.

Malthaner said the library foundation recently received an anonymous $10,000 donation.

The third annual Harry Potter Book Night, which Malthaner said is an "international" event, will be Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Last year, the event drew about 200 people and is expected to bring about 300 participants this year, said Malthaner.

It will include various activities and is for all ages, she said.

"It's something the whole family gets into," said Malthaner.

The Friends of the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library book sale will be March 28 to April 1. Malthaner said this is earlier than usual for the sale, which is normally later in April, but it is being moved up because of the planned parking lot project.

The library foundation's annual Dessert Extravaganza fundraiser will be at Roses Run Country Club April 20.

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