In a world that is only starting to recover from a recent economic crisis, it’s hard not to get bogged down on the negative. Specifically when it comes to libraries, where funding has been bleak in recent years, shuttered doors and literary woes were abundant. Now, however, many systems are seeing a resurgence in funding and community value, just like the Alexandrian Public Library in Mount Vernon, Indiana.
Just last week, the library system reached an agreement with the VPS Architecture and ARC Construction companies to begin working on a renovation project for the branch. Library Director Marissa Priddis expressed excitement that the project would finally be coming together, stating that the library was “thrilled” to be working with consultant Sarah Schuler to get the renovations underway.
The project itself is estimated to cost about $1.8 million. Rather than a traditional remodel of the overall facility, this undertaking can best be described as the building equivalent to a facelift, with various specific changes and updates planned to help the library best serve its patrons. As for the downtime the project will cause, the library wants to keep it minimal, and has an ambitious aim of completing the project in about six months, starting in June and – with a little luck – finishing up in December. The plan is for the library to remain operational during this time, but with different sections in various states of usability as construction progresses.
One of the largest contributions of the project will come to the facility’s IT capabilities; wiring throughout the building will be redone to allow for more bandwidth to help ease strain on the branch’s wifi system during busy days and provide faster speeds to its visitors. This expansion will also help to accommodate an increase in computers available for use by the public, which also necessitates the installation of more outlets and other electrical fixtures. In addition, a “technology bar” with presentation display screens and more is planned. Opening up the walls for rewiring will also mean that contractors can get at the building’s dated heating and cooling system, which will be updated in the process.
On the more traditional side of things, the building will be getting three additional small group meeting rooms, and a new space dedicated entirely to youth programming. In addition, the premises, inside and out, will be fitted with a variety of upgrades and quality-of-life updates. These include things like new lighting, ceiling tiles, paint, carpeting, etc.
In order to keep the library open for business, workers will have to complete the project in several distinct phases. The first of these phases is to focus on staff and infrastructure improvements. These projects are prioritized so that staff will be able to continue working through the construction as best they can. Next, will come the new youth area, which will allow the library to move the remainder of its summer programs, not to mention those starting up along with the school year. Finally, the adult/general use areas and meeting rooms will be completed.
Makeovers like the one in Mount Vernon are essential if libraries want to stay relevant in the digital age. Let’s hope voters across the country follow suit and support technology renovations at their local libraries.