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New look . . . Oamaru Public Library manager Philip van Zijl and reference and digital services librarian Debbie Price-Ewen show off the library's new shelving layout. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

The Oamaru Public Library reopens on Monday, after a three-week fit-out and refurbishment project.

It is the largest refurbishment project at the library since it opened in the mid-1970s.

The new layout means shelving can be moved to make room for different events, while new spaces have been created for quiet reading and other areas for small meetings or gatherings.

Oamaru Public Library manager Philip van Zijl said people would notice a huge difference when they walked through the new-look library’s doors for the first time.

“The first thing they’ll notice is that there will be library staff on hand, not behind a massive desk or barrier but having the capability to mix with the public.

“The second thing is we have done a completely different layout for the non-fiction section to create lounges that are organised into areas of interest.”

As an example, books related to cooking and food were now in the same section as autobiographies of chefs.

Mr van Zijl described the areas as “living rooms” which had comfortable, colourful furniture.

The layout will feature more books facing out, similar to displays found at book retailers.

The former manager’s office has been converted into a multipurpose room featuring a smart television, laptops and tablets. It will be used for staff training, support and demonstrations for library users, for community organisations to hold meetings, and for people to study or read quietly. Groups such as Literacy North Otago will also use it as part of its digital support service.

Other major changes included new carpeting, improved signage and a “brighter and lighter” atmosphere, Mr van Zijl said.

“There will be a lot more comfortable seats and seating around the library that will create hubs. We have attempted to separate the potential conflict groups, so children in one corner and in the opposite corner we have the youth. We have the tourist group facing the front windows, where there will be USB ports, charging stations and some comfortable furniture.”

The changes also allow more time for staff to liaise with customers, thanks to the introduction of radio frequency identity (RFID) tags attached to each book to allow the self-issue and return of library materials.

“Between 25% and 40% of staff’s time is spent doing repetitive jobs like returning and issuing books. With RFID, they have more capability to engage with the public .. people will get more attention from staff, who won’t get distracted by the issuing and return of material.

“It will also give staff more time to do community outreach to work with schools and other organisations, like SeniorNet, Literacy North Otago and the Citizens Advice Bureau.”

Mr van Zijl said the library’s new layout worked in with the Waitaki District Council’s vision for the district.

“The vision is to make the Waitaki district the best place to live, work and play and we see the library as a crucial part of that.”

The budget for the project was $162,000 and the project was likely to be just under or on budget, with no impact on ratepayers.

The library reopened at 9.30am last Monday.