From toddler storytime to adult book club gatherings, a library acts as a hub of activity in a community. Residents in Middletown once again have such a space to learn and connect.
The new Middletown branch of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) provides 5,200 square feet of space with a collection of more than 30,000 items. There are 20 public computers with free WIFI with access to printing, scanning, faxing and copying. Fees apply to printing and copying.
The Middletown branch space, which was most recently used as an interior design business, will have spaces for reading and studying, a children’s area, dedicated teen space, and meeting rooms.
The previous library space was located in the old East Government Center at 200 Juneau Drive. It closed in June of 2019 as a result of ongoing budget challenges. It reopened later that year in November with reduced hours. In March of 2020 it closed due to the pandemic, along with all LFPL locations. In October of 2020, it reopened with limited computer access and curbside pickup of library materials.
In December of 2020, the lease was up at the East Government Center and the branch closed again. Construction at the new location on Shelbyville Road began in April of 2021.
Lee Burchfield, LFPL director, says he is thrilled to have a space solely for the use of the library. The previous location shared space and even meeting rooms with other government offices.
“We are very excited to get back to Middletown in a more permanent location,” Burchfield says. “There is a great deal of visibility from Shelbyville Road and great parking available.”
Burchfield says the close proximity to Eastern High School – less than a quarter of a mile – provides a great deal of pedestrian traffic, and students can gather after the school day.
“It’s really convenient for students and faculty to walk to meet with friends, and to work on school projects,” he says.
Burchfield is hopeful the new teen space and dedicated programming for middle school and high school students will be utilized by those in the community.
An agreement between the Louisville Metro Government and the City of Middletown allows the LFPL to use the space free of charge. The City of Middletown owns the building and will provide upkeep and maintenance on the structure, Burchfield says, while the Louisville Metro Government has covered the renovation cost.
“Mayor [Greg] Fischer, Mayor [Byron] Chapman, Council Member [Markus] Winkler and Council Member [Anthony] Piagentini have been pivotal in us being able to get this done,” Burchfield says. “This is a great example of cooperation between a suburban city government and a metro city government coming together to make something great happen for a neighborhood.”
Burchfield has been director since April of 2019. He began with the LFPL in 1997 as assistant branch manager at the Iroquois branch. Later positions included electronic resources supervisor, manager of computer services, director of strategic planning and technology, and assistant director.
Burchfield’s lifelong relationship with books began at an early age. In an effort to ditch study hall in middle school, he volunteered to work in his school library – a decision that would chart his path later in life.
“Just being in that environment, being around books and being around people who loved books was just such a positive experience for me,” he says.
Throughout high school and in college, he continued to work in a library setting.
“In college I got to know professional librarians,” he says. “They were so encouraging and had a tremendous effect on me.”
Despite his many years of working in libraries, Burchfield thought his career path would lead in a different direction.
“I planned to earn a Ph.D. and teach college,” he says. “That’s what I thought I’d do. I spent a great deal of time in the library while finishing my Ph.D. program. I had no plans of working in one long-term.”
In the end he decided teaching college courses was not what he was called to do, so he enrolled in a master of science in library and information science program at the University of Kentucky. Following completion of the graduate program, he applied for a position with the public library system and was offered the role.
Though there have been numerous changes since Burchfield first joined the public library system in Louisville, libraries remain important in the communities they serve.
“Libraries are resources for people to be better connected in their communities and provide opportunities to be more successful in life,” he says. “There is no system or other place in our community that is so well-designed and equipped to nurture children than a public library system. Libraries provide the needed support for parents and caregivers to help develop the skills they will need in order to succeed when they do reach school.”
When a parent brings a child in for preschool story time, they are not just teaching the child pre-reading skills, but also teaching the parents how to cultivate skills children need in order to be successful adults, Burchfield says.
Once children are in school, library leaders encourage them to be lifelong readers through programs such as “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” and summer reading programs.
The same is true, Burchfield says, for senior citizens. Many adults who have retired visit the library in order to connect with others and to learn about what is going on in their community.
“They could stay home and read the newspaper online, but there is something about meeting in person and interacting with one another that is more engaging,” he says.
Burchfield says the new Middletown branch offers many of the programs and services patrons have come to love and rely on.
In total, there are 17 branches of the Louisville Free Public Library. The Middletown Library is located at 12556 Shelbyville Road in Louisville. Call 502-245-7332 for more info. Up-to-date programming and event information can be found at lfpl.org.
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