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Public library enters last renovation stage

POSTED AT 07:22 PM ON May. 22, 2013  (UPDATED AT 09:13 PM ON May. 22, 2013)


The Monroe County Public Library is set to begin a series of large renovations this month. Both indoor and outdoor changes will take place throughout the coming year.

This phase will include interior renovations to the auditorium, the movies and music section, the Friends of the Library Bookstore, the community outreach area and parts of the second and third floors.

“This is actually phase three of our renovations,” Library Director Sara Laughlin said. “Phase one was the children’s department. Phase two was part of the second floor.”

One of the largest projects they hope to implement is the creation of a Digital Creativity Center. The center will feature shared software available for the public to use in creating and publishing different kinds of digital media. The center will focuse on teens and young adults.

“Today’s generation is very digitally wired,” Laughlin said. “Everyone’s a publisher. We want to give people the skills to get jobs in this digitally creative economy.”

The renovations and creation of this new center will cause some of the library’s services to change locations. Laughlin said they are still working out where everything will go.

“We still don’t know yet,” she said. “The Digital Creativity Center will probably go to where the movies and music are now.”

The library is also planning an overhaul of their exterior, changing landscaping that has not been redone since 1997.

“Back then everything was monoculture, all the same plants,” Laughlin said. “It looks dated, and the bushes are overgrowing. Today people like native, diverse plants.”

With the help of three Eagle scouts from Boy Scouts of America Troop 170, the library aims to plant drought-resistant bushes, grasses and perennials to diversify their flora and cut back on the water bill.

The Kirkwood entrance will also be redone to increase accessibility.

The project Laughlin said she is most excited about is the transformation of the plaza outside the Kirkwood entrance. Now housing a broken fountain, the ground will be repaved and set with an interactive sundial. Visitors will be able to stand on a black granite tile of the current month, and the resulting angle of their shadow will lead to the time of day.

Laughlin said she is thrilled with the prospect.

The stone bears Sunny, Luna and Snowdrop will remain in the plaza.

Laughlin said the library has been working with local architect Christine Matheu to design the renovations. They are still in the planning stages.

“We hope to have a programmatic design by August,” Laughlin said. “We expect to have a contractor selected and approved by the board by January 2014, and hopefully construction will be done somewhere between June and September of 2014.

“We’ll stay open throughout it all. Though I’m sure the contractors would prefer
we didn’t.”

The total budget for the renovations is around $780,000. It is capital funding, all coming from taxes in the form of a capital projects fund approved by the County Council, a general obligations bond and part of the library’s savings fund.

“It’s about half of what we wanted,” Laughlin said. “Everything costs much more in the public sector. Money doesn’t go quite as far.”

These renovations come with the fact that the library has addressed the homeless population of Bloomington in the past. Laughlin said they have worked hard to make the library a benefit to people from all walks of life.

“We’re an urban library, we’re aware of that,” Laughlin said. “Due to our location, our community is growing and facing the issue of poverty. We have lots of audiences, and we don’t want to lose any
of them.”
Changes have helped the library in the past. Recently the smoking ban outside the library was shifted out to the curb with dramatic results.

“People were being harassed walking in,” Laughlin said. “But since March 1, we started to enforce the ban. This reduced incidents from 14 to four a week. Forcing people to move reduced other behavior.”

The library also had issues with graffiti and vandalism in the bathrooms. After visiting a library in Seattle, Laughlin decided to try a change.

“Their bathrooms were clinically white, and their number of incidents dropped,” she said. “So we redid our bathrooms; we covered everything in tile, made the stall dividers all hard surfaces, and increased candle-power. It has worked. You can have an impact of people’s behavior.”

Laughlin hopes that these new renovations will further improve the image of the library as a safe, fun place for all to visit.

“It keeps me up at night, but it’s fun to be getting started,” she said. “I’m happy we’re finally doing something.”


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