By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — After the spring semi-annual fire inspection of the Colfax Public Library, director Lisa Ludwig has learned that the library has a total occupancy of no more than 36 people at any one time.
The Colfax Library Board discussed the occupancy limit at the August 19 meeting.
According to a letter dated July 28 from Joe Solberg, Colfax fire inspector, the limit of 36 is based on the National Fire Protection Association’s code book.
Under special one-time circumstances, such as a guest speaker or a class field trip, the occupancy could be increased to 50, Solberg wrote.
Fifty people in the library is a total occupancy and not a fire occupancy, he noted.
Solberg suggested talking to an architect to find a definite number for total occupancy.
This summer, there were 51 children signed up for the summer reading program, Ludwig told the library board.
The total of 51 children does not count library personnel, parents, grandparents or volunteers coming to help with the program, Ludwig said.
The Colfax Public Library generally holds the summer reading program outside in Tower Park, but if the weather is bad and the program must be moved inside, there is definitely not room for everyone, she said.
Tower Park, Ludwig noted, also is not an ideal location for the summer reading program because the noise from traffic on Main Street often makes it difficult to hear speakers.
Ludwig asked the library board for direction on how to handle situations when there are more than 36 people present for a program or a speaker.
“Should I count bodies? Should I turn people away?” she asked.
A number of years ago, an Amish author drew a crowd of 80 people. One year, an Underwater World program drew more than 90 people, Ludwig said.
“Many parents were disgusted. They said the program should have been held at the school rather than the public library. There were angry parents that they could not get inside (the library for the program),” Ludwig said.
Since the Underwater World program was a program offered through the Colfax Public Library, Ludwig said she did not think it was appropriate to hold the library program at the Colfax school district.
If a program is expected to draw a significant crowd, Mark Halpin, village trustee and a member of the library board, suggested that Ludwig could ask for reservations and point out that space is limited to a certain number of attendees.
Ludwig said that as space has become more of an issue at the Colfax library over the years, she has noticed that fewer people are attending the events, most likely because they are not comfortable being so crowded in the library.
At that moment, the HVAC unit kicked on in the library, and Ludwig also noted that “turbo fan” makes it difficult for library patrons to hear library staff, each other or a program presenter.
“Turbo fan” is a problem throughout the Colfax Municipal Building and makes it difficult to hear Colfax Village Board meetings as well.
In the past, if a program has been well attended at the library, Ludwig said she has asked people to move out into the hallway — also not an ideal situation for seeing or hearing a program presentation.
The Colfax library’s Lego contest during the week of the Colfax Sesquicentennial was problematic, too, Ludwig said.
Participants in the contest had very little space in which to work, and some of the youngsters ended up building their Lego projects on the floor, practically underneath the computer desk, she said.
Ludwig asked library board members if she should post an occupancy sign.
The fire inspector said an occupancy sign should be posted to limit the village’s liability, she said.
The Colfax Library Board directed Ludwig to post an occupancy sign at the library.
In other business, the Colfax Library Board approved a motion to accept the donation from Dairy State Bank of the lot next to the bank as the site for a new library.
The Colfax Library Board meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in the Colfax Public Library.
The library board’s next meeting will be September 16.