L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library: Turning New Pages

Barbara Arnold

CHECK ’EM OUT. The relocated DVD shelves on the first floor of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.
CHECK ’EM OUT. The relocated DVD shelves on the first floor of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.

‘Where’d the DVDs go?” asked the 70-something gentleman resembling Burl Ives and dressed in bib overalls. He had just ridden up the elevator at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire and immediately descended upon seeing the empty shelves on the second floor where the DVDs had been.

“They’ve moved to the first floor,” was the reply as the shelves were pointed out to him, just behind the Information & Reference desk. He scurried off, smiling, and was soon to be seen pulling a DVD off the shelf and reading its back side. 

There is a method to all the current movement at the library. Last fall, the library conducted an online survey for feedback from its users regarding the feasibility of an expansion and capital fundraising campaign, along with how customers reimagined the library. A total of 552 people responded, and the library listened.

The public library is the most visited place in downtown Eau Claire. It attracts more than 1,200 visitors a day. The current library was built in 1976 for a city with a population of 50,000. Today, the library has a service area of 86,000 in a building that was not designed for that many people.

And while the fundraising campaign for the expansion is just getting underway, many of the customers’ visions for spaces and how they are used are being put into place right now … literally … while the library staff continues to carry out its “SO MUCH MORE” mission.

The plan is to avoid any disruption in service, according to Circulation Manager Paula Stanton. “While overall this is a large project, each portion is quite manageable, and we intend to make the transition as seamless as possible for our customers,” she said.

Nearly every single staff member – 44.7 full-time-equivalents, many of them part-time – has been involved in this project, whether helping plan, providing feedback and suggestions, communicating the changes to customers, or actually moving the materials, according to Isa Small, who handles programming services and communications at the library.

 Here’s where you’ll find things after the moves are completed by mid-May to early June:


Through the front door, on your left, will be the Checkout desk, hosting four of six self-checkout machines. Circulation staff will also cover the new Customer Services desk (the former Information & Reference desk) and will continue to assist with checking out materials, setting up new library cards, and other account-related tasks. They also will assist customers with locating materials and providing directional assistance. The Customer Services desk will be in the center of a “marketplace” containing popular DVDs, Blu-Rays, and audio CDs. The Teen Lounge and its stacks will be next to The Dabble Box Makerspace Lab. The Youth Services section, art gallery, new books, holds, and fiction stacks are not moving. However, a fifth self-checkout machine will be placed in Youth Services.


Upstairs, the focal point will be the Information & Reference Desk, the first service desk this century for customers on the second floor, and a new fourth overall for the entire library. Reference materials from the first floor will be moved to be next to this desk. Twenty-four public Internet work stations will be moved from the first floor; half will be able to be raised and lowered electronically to provide accessibility to customers using wheelchairs or those who prefer to stand. A new Business Center will house a public color printer, color copier, scanner, and fax machine. In a special cabinet, framed artwork created by Chippewa Valley artists will be on loan. Periodicals and the lounge area for reading magazines and newspapers will move where the Teen Lounge had been. Already relocated to the second floor is The Lois Barland Genealogy Research Center. The nonfiction stacks and art gallery will remain unchanged. A sixth self-checkout machine will be installed on the second floor.

Learn more at www.ecpubliclibrary.info.

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