Librarians reflect on loss of 'community couch'
September 16, 2011
MANNHEIM, Germany -There are new selections on the shelves, fresh magazines out front and cheery hand-drawn signs on brightly colored poster board that invite customers to an upcoming event.
Two distinctly unfamiliar signs hang in front of the check-out desk, each typed in stark contrasting black and white lettering.
They are reminders to patrons that the Sullivan library will close Sept. 30 due to the garrison's deactivation and ongoing transformation efforts across Europe.
"We accepted the closing but we did not expect it to be as soon as it has happened. It's a sad time here," said Alice Gorshenin, supervisory librarian.
For the past four years, Gorshenin and her staff served as a friendly faces and sympathetic ears for Mannheim families, civilians and Soldiers who spent their days within the walls of library, comfortably cozied up with a good book or hard at work on a research paper or school project.
This is Gorshenin's third community closure. She was a librarian in the Rhein Main and Darmstadt military communities, but she admitted this one has been the hardest to accept. "We were able to do a lot here and we are proud of the people we have helped. I think that is what I will miss the most -- the people," the Cornwall, N.Y., native said.
The staff was reduced to two in May and members of the Europe Region and Patrick Henry Village libraries have come in to lend a hand during daily operations.
"We view the libraries here as the couch of the community," said Stacy Graham, Europe region librarian. "It's a place you can come in and relax and check out stuff to educate and entertain yourself and your family. It's a place you can get comfortable in and the outside world is outside.
With all our libraries we try to educate, empower, enrich and entertain our patrons. We try to do all those things here and acting as that big couch of the community is what we are here for," he said.
Now that the closure is final, librarians are looking onward to the next phase.
"Now we're just trying to adapt to the situation because we have to take care of all of the materials and dispose of them properly. Our job doesn't end when the doors shut Sept. 30," Graham added.
Graham said they'll work with other Army libraries here, in the United States and the state department to relocate the items, a process that could take at least 60 days.
They'll also contact charities and possibly German libraries. Whatever items they cannot place must be destroyed per Army regulation.
"We know that Soldiers and families are the most important people that we have and we want to ensure that we have something to support them. It may not be the perfect solution but we're doing what we can in a fiscal environment that's tough on everyone at the moment and we're trying to come up with the best alternative library service to ensure they have something to support them," he said.
The Mannheim library staff is scheduled to host one of their last events, a Toddler and Preschool story time 11 a.m. Sept. 21.
Sullivan Library patrons may continue to check out materials until Sept. 30.
Patrons can manage accounts online via MyAccount on the Army Europe Libraries website. Other online library services include access to research databases, downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, music and movies.
Starting Oct. 1, Sullivan patrons may request all Army Europe library items via MyAccount to be mailed to their personal APO addresses or to the PHV Library for pickup.
Patrons will have the option to return items via mail, a drop box located at ACS, Bldg. 246, on Sullivan Barracks or to the Patrick Henry Village Library.
The official courier will empty the drop box and deliver its contents to PHV on a regular basis.
The new service will be limited to Sullivan patrons who contact library staff to verify or update their APO address.
The address verification will act as a registration for the mailing service and will eliminate the problem of misdirected mailing of library items.
Strategic placement of signs and information, a well-informed library staff and an informational session at Sullivan Library will alert Sullivan patrons to changes in service.
Starting Oct. 1, the Sullivan ACS will expand its hours of operation to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday for community members in need of public computers.
ACS computers offer the same services as the computers formerly available at the Sullivan Library.
ACS staff will be well informed of the available options for community members in need of library service.
Staff will be equipped with informational handouts about online library services and mailing option.
Mannheim Elementary School library, open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, is accessible to "space required" families as well as attending "space available" families for access to age appropriate materials. This includes home schoolers.
The principal will send notices to parents about library access.