Expanded hours begin Saturday at new library

Austin-based children’s entertainer Staci Gray performs for a crowd in the meeting room for the Norco Branch’s summer reading program kick-off event on May 24.

Ribbon cutting, dedication of new facility set for 10 a.m.

Book lovers living in the Norco area have a reason to smile, as there’s not only more of their local library to enjoy these days, but they’ll be able to enjoy it for longer as well.

Saturday marks a pair of milestones for the St. Charles Parish Library at its new location in Norco, one of them the advent of an expanded schedule that will see the Norco branch open for evening visits as well as on Saturdays.

The Norco branch will now be open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (remaining the same) and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This Saturday marks the first day the new hours go into effect. It’s a shift from the library’s traditional hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Saturday also marks the official ribbon cutting and dedication for the branch, which officially opened the doors of its new building at 590 Apple St. to the public on May 23, but had not yet commemorated the occasion.

That event will be held at 10 a.m. Guest speakers scheduled to appear include Parish President Larry Cochran, District IV Councilwoman Traci Fletcher and St. Charles Parish Library Board President Celeste Uzee. There will be light refreshments throughout the day, as well as games, including giant connect four, and other activities set up around the library.

The expanded hours are a response to some steady requests for it from patrons, as well as the growth of library traffic at the location since the opening of the new building, which is larger than the previous library site on Good Hope Street.

The interior of the library’s new location in Norco.

“We’ve had a lot more people than the Norco branch usually sees over the summer,” said Lauren Pitz, library spokeswoman. “We’re in a larger location so there’s more area for people to actually sit down and hang out, to study, have meetings and research. We had some requests for expanded hours so we looked into what we could do and decided to give it a try.”

The site represents more than double the size of the Good Hope Street location, a jump from 2,100 square feet to 4,530 square feet. The space includes two group study rooms, additional computers, a family restroom, a larger meeting room, expanded seating areas and more browsing space. The parish’s library system purchased the site in 2015, with the hope of increasing programming, adding convenience and ultimately growing visits.

The spike in attendance, Pitz noted, is a dramatic one. Library attendance at the Norco branch nearly doubled in June from 2018 to 2019, jumping from 645 visitors to 1,256, a 95 percent increase. In July 2018 to 2019, the increase was 548 visitors to 996.

Book circulation leapt from 530 to 1,476 and from 589 to 1,346 in the same June/July windows from year to year.

“We definitely felt that there were a lot more people visiting the library and checking out books this year, and the statistics backed that up,” Pitz said. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces … the facilities are such an improvement from where we were before, and we’ve received really great feedback from all of our visitors.”

 

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