Library tears into expansion

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

With construction beginning on a $2.15 million expansion next month it is tempting to say that the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library is beginning a new chapter.

But really, it is really another addition to a six-year long story.

While many groups are looking for money to fund their own projects, the library has been like the Little Red Hen of the children's fable, industriously setting aside money from its budget to pay for an expansion that will take them into the next generation of library service.

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Library Director Joe Jenkins said that, while donations to the project would be accepted, the library expects to be able to foot the bill on its own through scrimping and saving from its budget.

"This will be paid for, there's no debt. We're not going to do have to do a levy and ask for money from anybody," Jenkins said.

Although the possibility of building a new facility for the main branch had been considered, with the extension of the library to several branches throughout the county, the funding wasn't there.

"This just presented itself as the opportune time to go ahead and do the upgrades that are necessary and at the same time take a significant portion of that $2.15 million to add the space that we need to take us into the next generation of library service," Jenkins said.

The first phase of the project, which was designed by Shawn Walker and Associates, will attach a new 6,000 square-foot building to the existing structure, allowing the addition of new catalog offerings and even a new periodical reading area.

The second phase will renovate the current building, including plans to improve wiring, windows and roofing. Also, the plans include an elevator, finally making the Briggs handicapped-accessible.

Once construction on the expansion is complete, the going on will be a little bit slower, architect Walker said, because rooms will have to be relocated as their new locations are completed.

"That's really what's causing the project to take so long is that we're trying to keep the library open and operating throughout the entire construction process," Walker said.

Of course, there will be some times when the library will be closed unexpectedly, but Jenkins said that patrons would not receive late-fee penalties if they are unable to return books as a result of the closure.

Work on the expansion is slated to begin in the first week of September, during which visitors will have to access the library parking lot from Fifth Street. Completion is scheduled to be May or June 2006.