Anyone who has talked to Sidney Richland County Library Director Kelly Reisig about the library knows one thing. Kelly is excited about her job her staff and the library and the direction it is currently going.

The library has just crossed the finish line on a two-year project that saw the footprint of the library almost double by renovating the basement for use by some of the youngest library visitors.

“What pushed the renovation was the need for more room, said Reisig. “We really want to provide the best library for the county we can and this allows us to do that. I’m really excited about it.”

According to a 2019 article in the Sidney Herald, the project was estimated at $1.3 million and that Richland County was footing the bill for the actual construction and fundraising efforts helped pay for additional features, including a Montana History room.

At that time Reisig said, “The library has been going strong for 100 years – this renovation ensures that it will be strong for another 100 years.”

Some of the changes made during the renovation include new restrooms, a new circulation area, and a dedicated space for toddlers and early elementary school visitors, leaving the juvenile section solely for upper-elementary school aged students.

Prior to the renovation the basement was not being utilized. It now houses two family restrooms, toddler/lower elementary level books, a new story time area and a new programming classroom which is used by adult learners.

There are plenty of changes upstairs as well including the aforementioned Montana History room and a young adults area for teens. Another change is there are separate computer stations for youth and adults. “The adult computer stations are more like desks to give them room to write and things,” said Reisig. “We used to have youth and adults working side by side on computers and that didn’t quite work out sometimes,” said Reisig with a chuckle.

Another addition most will never see includes multiple cleaning closets with floor drains to allow the cleaners to do their job more efficiently.

By doubling the footprint the library now has more room for books, computers and many other amenities, some might not expect.

The Sidney Richland County Library not only offers books for checkout but it also offers launch pads preschool backpacks and even cake pans.

Launch pads are computer tablets preloaded with books, puzzles, activities and games and do not require internet access. The preschool backpacks are filled with items that help young ones get ready to start school.

Visitors can also check out a cake pan and a cook book. “We have a huge amount of cake pans. You can only use that Scooby Doo cake pan so many times, so instead of buying one, come in and check one out.” Reisig said those who check out cake pans will have to go across the street to the grocery store for the flour, sugar and eggs.

“We try to look at the community and its needs and fill in those gaps,” said Reisig.

Reisig said the popularity of BINGO during the pandemic has led them to keep that going, only now it will be in-person rather than done remotely. The library now offers a science time for teens as well as a family time. Another service which began due to the pandemic is curbside service and Reisig said that would not be going away. Books can be checked out online and once the patron arrives at the library a staff member will bring the books to the vehicle and place them in the back seat.

“We’ve actually taken a box full of books and placed them in the car for a mom who had multiple kids and didn’t want to get them out of the car. When she brought the books back, we took the box out of the car and placed a different box in the back seat,” said Kelly. “That’s what we’re here for.”

It’s obvious that Reisig and her staff’s efforts to serve the public have made and impact as the library sees 1,500-2,000 visitors a month.

The library is expanding in the digital arena. “Not everyone has equal access to the internet,” said the director. “You can now check out the internet at our library. We have nine mobile hotspots (three are Verizon and six are T-Mobile) and that allows us to give some equity for people that need that.”

As part of the grand reopening and ribbon cutting, the library also rolled out a new service called hoopla, which allows individuals to stream audiobooks, movies, music, videos and ebooks.

“We’re always in a constant state of change,” said Reisig about the staff’s effort to find new ways to provide library services to the community.

To those who haven’t visited the library in a while or maybe think the library has become somewhat obsolete, Reisig has some advice. “I think you would be surprised at some of the things we have to offer and some of the things we do. Come in. Give us a try.”

The Sidney-Richland County Library is located at 121 3rd Ave. NW in Sidney. The phone number is 406-433-1917. You can also find them online at http://richland.org/362/Library

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