Spacious and sunny, new EM Library welcomes community

EM library
Library Director Laura Long shows how the new laptop computer checkout system works. CREDIT JAN TOUNEY

Years in the making, the Louis E. Woodworth Public Library in downtown East Moline is ready to welcome new and returning patrons to a brand new building. 

It features the latest offerings in digital technology, numerous places to cozy up and read a book, study rooms, and a spacious meeting room that is already hosting community events.

The library is at 745 16th Ave. in the former TBK Bank building across the street from the old library, a Works Progress Administration project which served the community since it opened in 1935. TBK donated the new building and moved its branch office down the street to the corner of Seventh Street and 16th Avenue.

Total estimated cost of the project is $7.3 million.

While the new library had a “soft opening” a few months ago, Library Director Laura Long expects the real traffic will start coming in after a ribbon cutting ceremony at the library’s 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 grand opening. Brief remarks by local officials will be held on the 16th Avenue plaza of the new building.

“It’s so thrilling now to have it be open and be able to see people come in, to have people sit in the study rooms, which we’ve never had before,” Ms. Long said. “We always thought there would be a use for them. It’s exciting to see that we were right and that we picked the right things to focus on.”

The library has hosted more than 100,000 patrons per year, and officials estimate a 25% increase in annual attendance in the new building.

There are several study rooms in the library, offering a quiet place for an individual or small group to work. Large-screen televisions can connect to laptops for meetings or other presentations. The library also has purchased a Meeting Owl camera that captures a panoramic view of the room, focusing on the person who is speaking at the time.

In addition to enhancing a business meeting, the Owl could be used by families wishing to speak with another family member remotely in one of the library’s meeting rooms.

“I look forward to being able to offer that,” she said.

What Ms. Long termed a “very robust” teen program is now enhanced by a Teen Room located on the main floor in the old TBK Bank vault, where young people can drop in to study, play video games and work on projects. The library has an active teen council that recommends activities and programming. Council meetings “are incredibly well-attended, and they are super active,” she said.

Also on the main floor, in the children’s section, is an inviting sitting area with numerous spots for parents and children to read the books they’ve selected from nearby racks. The old library afforded no such space, Ms. Long said.

There are no dark and dusty corners in this library. Huge windows on all sides let in plenty of natural light. Help desks with signs saying “ASK ME” are staffed with library employees ready to answer questions and direct visitors.

During the week before the grand opening, Mikayla Kitchen and Gina Mekus staffed the desk on the main floor, helping several patrons check out materials.

Ms. Kitchen, circulation supervisor, stressed the importance of community in talking about the impact of a new library.

“It’s really exciting and a good opportunity to give back to the community,” she said. “We don’t just check out books. It’s nice to be a part of this.”

Among the new innovations offered to East Moline library card holders is a “laptop locker” where laptop computers can be checked out for use at the library. The card scanning system allows people to get a laptop for use in the building in a similar fashion to the way some franchise pizza businesses allow you to pick up your pizza from a self-service station.

“We’re very excited about that,” Ms. Long said. “This will expand the number of people in our building who can use the computers, which remains a popular service of ours. It’s also going to allow us to put a hold on them for a day and offer classes, which we couldn’t do before because we didn’t have the technology or the space to do that.”

The self-check laptops are in addition to eight laptops in the adult section and four laptops in the children’s section that sit out on tables.

The Geraldine Baecke Meeting Center on the lower level of the library already is seeing high usage, Ms. Long said. The East Moline/Silvis Kiwanis Club is holding its weekly meeting there.

The room can hold 80 people but also can be divided into smaller spaces.

The building’s namesake, Louis E. Woodworth, a businessman and philanthropist, grew up in East Moline and was a regular at the library during his childhood.

“He donated a significant amount of money, a keystone gift that really made this possible,” Ms. Long said.

In addition to Mr. Woodworth, special thanks also go to the Moline Foundation, TBK Bank “and so many other community partners who have worked with the library to ensure this could happen,” Ms. Long said.

“The community’s generosity has been overwhelming,” she said. “This is a true holistic endeavor, with support from the state, city, foundations, and most importantly, our local philanthropists.”

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