Library improvement projects nearing completion; Shared Catalog now live; new hotspots will be available for patron check-out

Improvement projects at the Great Falls Public Library are underway or nearing completion.

The public meeting space in the basement is expected to be complete by early October. There were delays in carpet manufacturing slowing the project that was expected to be finished by the end of August.

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Library Director Susie McIntyre said that the carpet would be replaced next week and a new projector system was being installed. The basement meeting room now has LED lighting with better dimming controls, she said.

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The $66,178 contract to repair the basement flooding was awarded to Capcon Construction during the Sept. 1 City Commission meeting and the pre-construction meeting was held Sept. 11.

“We’re so pleased that we’re going to get that handled,” McIntyre told the library board during their Sept. 22 meeting.

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The project includes fixing a leak around the storm drain pipe in the basement and water rising through cracks and expansion joints in the basement concrete.

The project also includes addressing ground water that’s seeping into the basement with sump pumps and a french drain.

Library eliminating late fines,planning major repair for basement flooding

The flooding has been a significant issue for years and McIntyre said that there’s water in the basement 3-6 months out of the year. During major rain events, staff has had to stand in the basement with buckets and mops trying to block the water gushing into the basement.

Great Falls library continuing repair, remodel projects

The basement flooding repair project is expected to be completed by December.

The library went live with the Shared Catalog last week, the first library to come onto the Montana State Library’s shared system during COVID-19. McIntyre said that typically, the state library sends a team of four people to help with the transition.

McIntyre said there were a few hiccups that staff is fixing, but overall the transition went well thought it was hard on the staff. They did significant training before going live and the library will be on the new system for about six months to work out kinds before they can join the Partners, which will allow patrons to place holds on materials from other member libraries.

“I, for one, feel better than the server isn’t here in the basement anymore,” McIntyre said of the state library’s system that’s offsite and maintained by the state.

McIntyre said the Shared Catalog will increase the access to materials by two to three times for Great Falls patrons.

McIntyre said it could cost the library more in courier fees if people choose more books from other libraries, but the library will have a significant savings on software costs.

The library will maintain its existing interlibrary loan process for libraries that aren’t in the Partners system.

The Montana State Library has also provided an additional 49 hotspots with prepaid data plans for a year to the GFPL. The library already had three that were being used in public places, but now the GFPL plans to make the additional hotpots available for local residents to check out.

“Fifty families being able to have Wi-Fi in their home, I think that is going to have a very positive impact,” McIntyre told the library board.

The library can turn them off remotely in case someone doesn’t return one. McIntyre said they’ll see if the state will continue to fund the program after the first year or discuss if the GFPL is able to support continuing it with local funding.

Library staff are planning to launch the hotspot check-out program by Oct. 1.

Employees from the Great Falls Job Service office are working in the library 2-4:45 p.m. Tuesday through Friday since the Job Service office is currently closed.

McIntyre said the program “has been really great” and has already served 58 people.

She said that library staff can help with basic problems, but if a patron needs more specific employment-related help, the Job Service staff is able to handle it onsite.