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Shelter Island library set for makeover

The Shelter Island Public Library's trustees have awarded a $565,000 contract to renovate the basement of the building, the first major change to the structure since it was built in 1965.

And, when Construction Consultants LI of Riverhead finishes next spring, there will be another change as well: The library's nonfiction collection will no longer be displayed following the traditional Dewey Decimal System, but rather in a modified form of the system used by large bookstores to cluster books in general subject areas.

Shelter Island will be the first library on Long Island to use the BISAC system developed by the Book Industry Study Group to lay out volumes on different subjects.

While the Dewey Decimal System uses 10 major divisions -- numbered 200 for religion or 800 for literature, for example, each with 10 divisions and each division with 10 categories -- the BISAC system is divided strictly by subject, such as body, mind and spirit or business and economics.

"We couldn't do it if the books were just put out on long shelves. But, with the renovations, we will be able to cluster them," said Shelter Island library director Denise DiPaolo. She said the renovation work should be complete by May.

The $700,000 renovation is being paid for entirely through private donations. Besides the actual construction contract, the cost includes architects' fees, new furniture and other expenses, DiPaolo said.

The library board of trustees decided to do private fundraising after a plan to spend $4 million on an expansion of the building was defeated, 655-178, in 2008. So far, the board has raised more than $600,000 toward the work.

The current renovation will not increase the size of the building, but will allow the library to better use its space, while an elevator will make it possible for people in wheelchairs to get to the basement for the first time.

The little community library has gotten a lot busier over the past few years. Total visits went from 24,000 to nearly 75,000 between 2007 and 2010, and circulation of materials over the same period went from 41,000 items to 63,000 items.

Construction Consultants is the firm that built the Peconic Landing retirement facility in Greenport, the Cutchogue-New Suffolk public library and the Cornell Cooperative Extension building in Riverhead.

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