A Library in a Shopping Mall?


Libraries vs. shopping malls. The two things seem as diametrically opposed as a hot fudge sundae and a chunk of tofu. Yet for residents of Orem, Utah, it’s not all that strange.

The Orem City Library has been undergoing a $1.8 million dollar remodel, involving half of the library. The south wing will feature a brighter interior, with new ceilings, lighting, and seating. But what do you do with half the contents of an entire library? You can’t just shove it all into a closet while the remodeling takes place. Thus was born the idea of opening a branch of the library at the mall.

The University Mall took in the books around Memorial Day, which is when the remodeling began. I spoke with one of the workers at the library, who told me it was a huge project. They borrowed book carts from every library in the area to get the books transported, using huge moving trucks, and then workers reshelved the books on the other end. It was an exhausting undertaking, and they have to do it all over again, in reverse, and in proper order.

But it appears to have been worth it. 441 new cards were issued at the mall branch, and an estimated 12,287 patrons checked out 7,500 items. Those numbers sound huge, but compared to what the Orem library is used to, that’s nothing. Books trickle in and out of that place like sand in an hourglass. In fact, it’s one of the busiest libraries in the nation. It has 95,000 card holders (of which I am one) and an annual circulation of 1.2 million items. The library’s collection boasts a grand total of approximately 280,000 books, maps, and multimedia items. And to think I’ve only begun to scratch the surface!

The renovations are due to be finished around the end of December. I can hardly wait to go in and see what it all looks like. I expect that the janitorial staff has adequately prepared themselves to mop up the drool that will most likely accumulate as eager patrons are ushered in. It’ll be better than Christmas.

(Statistics for this blog were found in the Sunday, November 12, 2006 issue of the Daily Herald.)

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