Wright Library: New and Improved!

Library Director Kristi Hale, Board of Trustees President Joe Fulford and Youth Services Coordinator Jacqui Taylor break down Wright Library’s recent renovations


New Appearances: Wright Library created a new amphitheater off to the side of their youth section so kids can play in a designated space. Nathaniel Upton (10) said, “I think the space has been improved because it looks a lot more comfortable and chill so you can read or study easier.”

Sage Spirk, Reporter

Over the past few months, Wright Library has undergone major changes to their layout, aesthetic and overall structure. The establishment, which has been around for over 80 years, has been in need of repairs and renovations but has only managed to get a majority of the funding needed in March of 2020. Throughout these modifications, Wright Library has been firm in keeping the community informed about the project, and Library Director Kristi Hale discusses the process of collecting community input and making fantasies into a reality. 

“In 2016, we conducted a multi-phase community research process that helped us understand what the community most wanted in their library,” Hale said. “Specifically, they asked us to improve areas for children and teens. They also asked us to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, and to separate active areas from quiet areas.”

As Library Director, Hale is responsible for the library’s planning, services, staff and facility. Most of the facility has not been altered since 1991, furthering the need for repairs and aesthetic renovations. But before that idea could be entertained, funding had to be achieved. 

“Much thought was put into deciding how to structure the project financially,” Hale said. “Our research indicated that the community would support an additional tax levy, but they also wanted us to seek private support so that the burden wasn’t placed solely on the taxpayers. We set to work building support for a 1.5 mill tax levy, which passed with 68% support in spring of 2020.”

It was during this time that Wright Library put together their capital campaign, but Hale describes that even with rallying support, raising money was a daunting task. 

“I knew we had a $1.5 million funding gap between the project’s cost and what the tax levy was going to provide, and that felt like a really big number,” Hale said. “Then in May 2020, I received a phone call from Mr. David Flory, a man who had grown up in Oakwood but had not lived in Ohio for many years. Mr. Flory said he owed his success to Wright Library, which inspired him to love learning as a young student at Smith School, and then later taught him how to invest using Wright Library’s subscription to Value Line. Mr. Flory donated $500,000 to the library, and that’s the moment I knew that our plans were going to become a reality.”

Eight months later, and Wright Library had raised the rest of the money they needed thanks to generous donations, and it was officially time to start designing their renovations.

“This was such a fun process,” Hale said. “Our architect team met multiple times with the library’s staff and board of trustees to look at different layouts and options and discuss pros and cons. Once we had a design that we felt achieved all of our project goals, we held focus groups with different community groups to get their reactions to the design.”

These focus groups consisted of parents, children, teens, people with disabilities and seniors. It was then later opened to the public, and the collected feedback played a huge part.

“Once we reviewed all of the input, we tweaked our plans,” Hale said. “But in truth, all of the focus groups loved what we were planning, and few changes to the plans were needed.”

Wright Library continues to be on schedule and budget with their renovations, and one of the biggest motivators for Hale is the way the new spaces will affect the community. 

“This Library is absolutely loved by the community – many of them consider it an extension of their living space,” Hale said. “I can’t wait for them to discover our new seating areas, our new meeting rooms and our new play spaces. I’m also very happy with the improvements to accessibility. While our building still has some challenges we cannot change, such as not having a parking lot, we have really invested in making the building more comfortable for all.”

However, Hale wasn’t the only person involved in the effort. Board of Trustees President Joe Fulford, who meets with other trustees to evaluate how well Wright Library is doing, had his hand in the project, helping to prioritize and navigate concerns. 

“We essentially had ‘must do’ and ‘should do at the same time’ lists,” Fulford said. “Cost is a huge driver on priorities but we also used feedback from the community to help pick some options over others. For example, fixing accessibility (ADA) issues due to narrow aisles and small restrooms inside, and external approach grades and parking outside were a high priority to the community so they got prioritized.”

Fulford, like Hale, reflects on collecting input not only from the outer community, but from staff in order to optimize certain spaces. 

“Team input rather than one particular person’s input gave us the best answers,” Fulford said. “For example, the teen area needed more space and the audio/visual staff knew some parts of that nearby collection didn’t circulate much anymore so those staff members teamed up with the architect and director to work out the floor and shelf space pluses/minuses to make it happen.”

Fulford has hopes on how the community will perceive Wright Library after the renovations are finished.

“Well they won’t see the new HVAC, flat roof or elevator guts,” Fulford said. “But they will find a more accessible and more connected collection of spaces with much better light and sight lines to the park and the same healthy collection of materials.”

Youth Services Coordinator Jacqui Taylor has the job of assisting youth in finding their perfect book as well as creating educational programs for kids to participate in. Over the course of the project, Taylor had his eyes on quality of service and how it would be affected whilst construction was underway. 

“I was concerned about disruptions in service when renovations first began, but patrons and staff both have proven more flexible than I could ever have hoped,” Taylor said. ”People have been very understanding when it takes longer than usual for a book to be available.”

But even with small hangups, Taylor and everyone involved know it will all be worth it in the end. 

“I hope children and teens feel more ownership of the space, now that they have a dedicated and comfortable library section of their own,” Taylor said. “I also hope that all patrons appreciate the new acoustics at the library; by separating adult services and youth services on different floors, young patrons are far less likely to disrupt adults who want a quiet library environment.”

To keep up with the renovations, visit wrightlibrary.org and and learn more about what to expect in the coming months.