Melbourne Public Library expanding its programs

MELBOURNE – For Melbourne Public Library Director Sara Mechtel, keeping library patrons engaged and connected are her primary goals.

“We’re always working on bettering our collection and offering a variety of programs,” Mechtel said.

The library’s summer reading program ran from late May to July 18, concluding one week earlier than planned to accommodate traffic brought to the community by RAGBRAI participants.

“This year was our best yet. We had an average of about 26 people per event,” she said.

The Friends of the Melbourne Public Library sponsored many of the summer reading program guests.

Because many area children get out of school early on Wednesday afternoons, the library caters to the after-school crowd.

“We have three buses that stop in front of our library every day, so it gets busy sometimes,” she added.

The next Wednesday afternoon program will be To Dye For, held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on August 22. Children and adults can come decorate a t-shirt. Then from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on August 29, youth can unleash their creativity and problem-solving skills when they build their own cardboard castles.

“With our programs, we do find that creativity is important, but we’re trying to expand more into educational program,” she said. “STEAM is very important to all Iowa libraries, so we’re trying to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and math into our programs every month. Besides that, we’re trying to expand our adult interest programs. For example, we started a monthly Cook the Book Club. The Gutekunst Library in State Center was a great help for giving me tips and tricks for how to get it started.”

Gutekunst Public Library Director Mara Edler said she was happy to help guide Mechtel in the process of setting up her own club.

“Everybody loves to cook. It has been such a great program here, and when she contacted me, I had no doubt it would take off there,” Edler said. “It’s a fun way to get together. And it provides an opportunity for people to try recipes, especially if you’re the only adventurous one in your family.”

The next meeting of the Cook the Book Club is slated for 6 p.m. on August 27. Participants will all be bringing a recipe from “The Gluten-Free Bible” to share at the potluck.

“We have members in the group that are sensitive to gluten, and other people who are just interested in trying new recipes,” Mechtel said. “The size of the Cook the Book group varies from five to 12 participants. It’s still small by library standards, but for us that’s a pretty good size.”

For these adults-only gatherings, people are allowed to bring their own beer or wine.

Mechtel said the main project she and the library board are focused on is redoing the building’s deck.

“Right now we’re working on funding a new deck. Our current deck is old, wooden and a really friendly place for wasps to build their nests, so we’re looking to get a synthetic material deck and extend it to use for outdoor programming, as well as setting up a more user-friendly ramp for ADA-compliance,” she said.

Mechtel said she looks forward to hosting the library’s Boo Bash Halloween event for kids, as well as the second annual Holiday Homes Tour the first part of December, both to take place at dates and times to be determined.

For larger programs, Mechtel said she utilizes the library’s basement meeting room, which can also be rented out for use by the public. Non-profit groups can use the space free of charge, with other groups needing to only pay a nominal fee.

“One year, we had a family rent the space for Thanksgiving,” she said.

Mechtel stays focused on her primary goal for growing the library: drawing in the adult population.

“Right now, I’m trying to find out what adults would be interested in, and we’re looking at other libraries for inspiration. I am trying to get a hold of people from the community. If anyone has suggestions about what they want at their library, I would listen to those,” she said.

For more information, Mechtel may be reached at 641-482-3115 or

Events are posted on the library’s Facebook page. Library hours are Sunday-Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., plus morning hours on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and closed Saturdays.

Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or