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Wakefield Public Library may soon have expanded name


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Wakefield — A name change for the Wakefield Public Library may soon be official, according to Joel Laessig, library director.

In a Wednesday interview, Laessig said he will approach members of the Wakefield City Council on Sept. 14 to make the formal request.

Library board members already have discussed the issue, and public hearings were held earlier this year as well.

Laessig said the pending name change is based on a desire to honor the late Eugene Maki, who played a prominent role in the town’s culture during his lifetime.

The exact library name had not yet been determined as of Wednesday, but Laessig said the intention was simply to add Maki’s name to the existing title, rather than to remove any words from the current name.

“We don’t want to lose that,” he said of the recognition associated with the current library name.

Laessig said one possibility for a new name is the Wakefield Eugene R. Maki Public Library.

The director said he also will ask the council for permission to transfer money from the library surplus fund to the library’s operating budget. The transfer will allow the library board to fund the cost of an interior upgrade.

“We’re looking to recarpet the entire library,” said Laessig, who explained that the existing carpet is nearly 40 years old.

The exterior already has been upgraded this summer. “We got the library painted in the past few weeks,” said Laessig. “That was a Godsend.”

Members of the Honor Society from the Wakefield-Marenisco K-12 School volunteered to take charge of the painting project.

A picnic table and flowers now also add to the new outdoor ambiance.

The library had closed as of March 24 due to state rulings in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility then remained closed for two and one-half months.

“We were completely closed down,” said Laessig, who explained that library staff would have liked to work on various projects during that period, but the state regarded library staff as “nonessential.”

After a state easing of rules earlier this summer, the library has been open with regular hours since June 12.

Laessig said one of the first priorities after reopening was to catch up with book orders.

“On top of the normal operations, there’s still a certain amount of catch-up,” he said, adding that he hopes to reopen the patron exhibit again soon.

“Right now, we’re not doing any in-person programming,” said the director.

That means programs such as Tiny Tots Story Time, assisted reading, and weekly book visits to Sunset Manor Apartments are on hiatus until the state further reduces COVID-related restrictions.

Nevertheless, Laessig said he sees optimism in the midst of all the nationwide negativity. He said total circulation is about 80% of what it was last year at this time.

“That’s just an indication that people are going out,” he said, pointing out that while people are cautious in the midst of the pandemic, they are not afraid to live their lives.

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