New Cape library immediately popular
The Northwest Regional Library only opened one-and-a-half months ago and is catching up with the sort of attendance other more established libraries receive on a daily basis.
Regional Manager Ava Barrett said the northwest library is visited by an average of 1,200 people each day, while the Cape Coral Library has approximately 2,000. The library opened Dec. 12 and is the latest addition to a system with eleven facilities spread out strategically across the county to provide anyone with access regardless of where they live.
Over the last decade the population in Cape Coral skyrocketed and the only place for development was north into the desolate parts of the city before North Fort Myers. To serve a growing population of people in this portion of the city, the library was built on the northern section Chiquita Boulevard next to Mariner High and Mariner Middle.
“We are very happy that people are finding it, and we are getting some great comments,” said Barrett.
The 41,000-square-foot facility held more than 43,000 items in its print collection and 27,000 in audio-visual on its opening day, but the library gets new titles nearly every week. Barrett said last week Northwest Regional Library put an additional 100 titles on its shelves. And even if this facility doesn’t hold a particular item, the Lee County Library System’s interlibrary loan program ships any materials to any facility in the county.
One of the most popular features at Northwest Regional Library is the DVD and CD collections, the largest and most up-to-date in the system. An entire space is devoted to racks of new films, television shows and music on compact discs.
“People are enthralled by our DVD and CD collections,” said Barrett.
Cape Coral resident Maria Dujua was visiting the library for the first time on Friday afternoon. Her sister regularly visits the Northwest facility and suggested she find out what it has to offer.
“This is the first time I’ve come,” she said, looking through the collection of films on DVD. “I usually go to the Cape Coral Library. There are a lot of movies and CD’s.
Claudia West, adult services librarian, said Northwest is the largest library to date.
“We try to offer something for everyone from young kids to seniors,” said West. “People are so glad we are here, they say we don’t want to drive so far.”
She pointed out the library’s automated handling system where visitors check materials in and out on their own, and conveyor belts carry hundreds of books to bins in an organized system of sorting.
“It keeps people from waiting in lines so much,” said West.
Northwest Regional Library has six self-check stations, 14 full-time and four part-time employees. They also use eight to 10 volunteers to help with sorting, greeting visitors and assisting with the use of technology. Out of 120 computers in the building, 84 were set up for patrons on its grand opening.
It was important for planners of the new facility to include a Kids Space and Teen Zone along with the adult materials section. Chris Serio, a children’s librarian, the design of the new library is meant to be hip and exciting to the young. In fact, the children’s section other library is responsible for checking out 42 percent of all the materials being taken home, he said.
“The most popular thing is pop-up books,” he said. “Because they are so unique.”
Children have 20 computers to choose from in their section. Some of the computers are even dedicated to children doing homework or research.
“This is a public library that focuses on education,” he said.
It hosts story-times for younger children that don’t only serve as entertainment but also teach literacy skills. Fifty parents showed up to the library’s story-time, said Serio, there are regular programs and projects that connect to the traveling exhibit.
When Northwest Regional first opened in December the traveling exhibit was a NASA Mar’s orbiter and now its Visions of the Universe which celebrates 100 years of astronomy. Of course, not every exhibit will be related to outer space — the next scheduled exhibit is about the early settlers of Sanibel Island — and each typically last a few months before it is replaced.
“Each exhibit will have a story-time, program and craft project that connect together,” said Serio.
Because the library is new to the community it’s looking for volunteers. Barrett said she is looking for library volunteers to help with sorting or customer relations, and for interested residents to join the Friends of the Northwest Regional Library.
It’s located at 519 Chiquita Blvd. North and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 12-8 p.m. on Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and is closed on Sunday. For more information call 533-4700.