'We want people to come in': Milford library opens new, expanded Children's Department

MILFORD — After more than a year of on-again, off-again construction, two moves and a pandemic quarantine, the Milford Public Library reopened its Children’s Department Tuesday.

COVID-19, though, still limited the celebration.

“This all started in October of 2019 when we moved into temporary space,” Children’s Librarian Suzanne Thomas said. “We moved as much of our material as we could, and put the rest in storage while the construction crews were in here.”

The coronavirus pandemic complicated the project in some ways, but the three-month shutdown also made the work easier, Thomas said.

“It really didn’t slow us down as much as I thought it would,” she said. “The workers came in while we were closed and did what they needed to.”

The new department is open for browsing, although curbside pickup is still available and programs remain online only.

Families entering the new children’s space will find the department has been significantly expanded, Thomas said.

“It’s not quite twice the size, but close to it,” she said. “They knocked down a wall so we could take over some space from the loading dock. We also expanded into some former office space.”

The department’s tiny restrooms also have been expanded, and along with the department itself, are now fully ADA-compliant.

“There’s plenty of room to go in there with a stroller. There are changing tables. It’s much nicer than it was,” Thomas said.

In addition to the Children’s Department upgrade, the interior work included adding two meeting rooms in the upstairs portion of the library. Unfortunately, Thomas said, those rooms will have to remain off-limits to the public until the pandemic subsides enough to allow larger indoor gatherings.

But the public demand for the library has remained consistent, even as residents’ habits have moved toward ebooks, electronic downloads and Zoom, Thomas said. To meet the demand, the library has added evening hours three days a week, plus Saturday.

Hours vary by day, and each day includes shutdowns during the day to give the staff time to clean up a little and to limit the exposure patrons have during their visit, she said.

“That’s the one thing people can’t do yet, is to come in and read and spend a few hours here. So we had to build in that time,” Thomas said. “But we want people to come in, we’re adding hours and we can’t wait until they can relax at the library again.”