BRISTOL – The Bristol Public Library of today would be unrecognizable to patrons of the original, who enjoyed checking out 400 volumes kept in the town hall in 1917.

Staff members say even patrons of early 2017, who have access to 100 times more material, might do a double take to see it now.

"It did not look like this six months ago," Children's Coordinator Tehillah Moses said Tuesday, indicating changes like the revamped childrens area, a redecorated media section, the new local history room and the "library of things" collection. The library also got some of the first paint and floor updates since its current location was built in 1984, replacing a house across from the Post Office which held closer to 7,000 volumes.

The library will hold an open house for its centennial Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Besides a chance for patrons to hear some local music, pick a name for the wooden train that was donated to Cummins Park in spring and maybe meet some 100-year-old guests, Director Carol Anderson said they hope to showcase all the changes inside and out.

Fresh fish and old photos

The children's area was redone in a freshwater theme. Gone are the faded, carpeted walls and old Dr. Seuss characters, replaced with nets, boats and fish to better reflect the riverfront town.

There's a blue and red painted fishing boat with an outboard motor hanging from the ceiling, along with a few rubber fish, and another boat turned into a bookshelf against the wall. A 55 gallon fish tank faces the room on one side and a treasure chest overflows with coins and gems in the opposite corner.

One wall has been covered with a floor to ceiling mural of a river populated by fish and birds, which was painted in summer by employee Rachel Ashcraft before she left for college. Moses said they plan to cover another wall in stiff fabric made to look like fish scales.

"The children's library is a lot better than it used to be," Moses said.

The craft closet just off the children's area was turned into a local history room, with a tin ceiling, old-fashioned lights and a wall full of enlarged photos of Bristol taken in the days of streetcars and Model T's. It also includes a collection of stereogram cards and shelves of old books from the nonfiction section, found in the basement or at antique sales or donated by patrons.

Funding for the children's and history spaces came from a $15,000 donation from a former Bristol resident, Ruth Eraybar, who left it to the library after she died in 2015. Treva Paris, senior clerk, said she remembered Eraybar as a patron years ago.

"It was a long time ago," she said. "She was a regular patron, she enjoyed coming here."

Part of the money will also go toward building a gazebo outside the library in spring.

"She didn't leave any direction for how to spend it, so we decided we want to do something that would be permanent," Anderson noted.

Other donations made toward the 20-by-20-foot pavilion include $1,000 from Robert Weed Plywood and $300 for benches from residents Stewart and Karin Gardner. Anderson said they hope to use it for story time, picnics and outdoor movies and concerts.

A library of things

Another recent addition is the "library of things," a collection of fun and useful tools and gadgets that cardholders can borrow for a week. They include cotton candy, gummy bear and ice cream makers; binoculars, a telescope, a metal detector and a tent; and repair kits, park passes and a projector screen.

Paris said everything has been borrowed at least once, though the telescope, tent and projector screen are some of the most popular. Cardholders at reciprocating libraries in Elkhart County can borrow from the collection as well.

The library also has a 3D printer, sewing machine, scanner and DVD to VHS converter for use within the building. There's a Cricut cutting machine that often gets used for scrapbooking, though the staff also used it to make vinyl cutouts to label the shelves and decorate a pumpkin.

Anderson said they purchased the items in August with a $20,000 maker space grant they received from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County two years ago. She noted maker spaces are becoming more popular in libraries because they let people create things at home.

"The purpose is to enrich people's lives, so we thought why not enrich people's lives at home," she said. "They're fun things to use that people might not necessarily buy for themselves."

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