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Recent changes at Mercer Island library are for service, not budget

If you are a regular patron of the Mercer Island Library, which is part of the King County Library Services, you’ve probably noticed that it feels roomier. Gone is the hulking reference desk and the popular “Choice Reads” island that used to block traffic as you enter the library.

The changes were not related to budgetary concerns.

Amy Eggler, KCLS cluster manager for the Mercer Island, Newport Way and Newcastle libraries, said they combined the reference desk with the check-out desk.

“Nobody lost their job,” Eggler said, “and a full staff is still available to help patrons with computers or finding a favorite piece of literature.”

“We’re still here to answer questions,” she said. “We’re here, we’re visible and we can see what’s happening better.”

She said that in the way the library was laid out before, reference staff had their backs to half of the patrons.

“My understanding is it was better to have everything behind one desk,” said Friends of the Library secretary Lenore Defliese. “It’s creating a more free-flowing space and more efficient use of staff.”

Defliese added that the library staff had been adamant about having a clear view of the children’s area, which they didn’t with the “Choice Reads” island blocking their view.

The managing librarian at Mercer Island, Christine Anderson, said everyone who comes up to the front desk is asking questions.

A voter-approved levy one year ago left King County Library Services better off than most.

The King County Library System started the practice of “clustering” libraries under one managing librarian in 2001 to cope with a budget that could not keep up with the library growth.

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