Upgrade forces library to close for two weeks

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 23, 2001

A $1 million renovation and expansion of the Lincoln CountyPublic Library is continuing, but some project-related work meansthe facility will be closed for two weeks beginning nextMonday.

A $1 million renovation and expansion of the Lincoln CountyPublic Library is continuing, but some project-related work meansthe facility will be closed for two weeks beginning nextMonday.

As construction crews work outside, library employees insidehave been rearranging books shelves and other materials inpreparation for the July 30-Aug. 11 closure.

“We’ve got to get everything out from under the balcony,” saidHenry Ledet, library director.

Ledet said some asbestos removal and other work in the balconyarea has to be done. The library is scheduled to re-open Aug.13.

“If they happen to finish sooner, we’ll open up sooner,” Ledetsaid.

Ledet said no overdue fines will be charged while the library isclosed, and the week of Aug. 13-18 will be “fine free.” All fineswill be waived for any overdue materials returned during thatweek.

Due to the construction, the library’s book drop will be closed.However, the library’s web site should stay up and home computerusers will have access to the library’s catalog and MAGNOLIAdatabases.

Ledet said the upcoming closure should be only one during theproject.

“We regret having to close at all, but it is necessary toprepare the building for the great improvements to come,” hesaid.

Improvements include a new children’s area, installation of anelevator and upgrading of entrances and other areas for handicapaccessibility. Additional space for books is also in the plans.

The project began in late April and, despite some recent rain,Ledet said Paul Jackson and Son and library officials are stilltargeting a December completion.

“The rain gave them some problems with the foundation,” Ledetsaid.

Even though the 5,000 square-feet expansion is only one story,Ledet said the foundation has to be reinforced to support theweight of thousands of books.

“That’s why it costs more to build libraries than ordinarybuildings,” Ledet said.

Citing similar difficulties with the some area projects, Ledetsaid waiting for steel has been another setback for the expansion.He remained optimistic the project would finish on time.

“We still want it to be a Christmas present,” Ledet said. “We’rehoping they’ll catch up.”

The project is being funded with a $500,000 grant from the StateLibrary Commission and $500,000 in matching funds from countysupervisors, who authorized a bond issue last year to come up withthe needed money.

Library officials received some other help from the county inthe form of jail inmates back in April. Ledet said the inmateshelped fill two large storage bins with library materials that hadto be removed temporarily.

“They worked hard. They didn’t mess around,” Ledet said.

Ironically, as the library prepares to close for a while, Ledetsaid he has noticed an increase in people visiting thefacility.

“It’s surprising how many people are using the library now,”Ledet said.

According to the latest periodic patron counts, Ledet said thelibrary is averaging about 170 visitors a day. Last Monday, 201people visited the library, he said.

When the project is completed, the library will have some newfurniture thanks to a separate $50,000 grant it has received fromthe library commission. Ledet said the library will seek privatefunding assistance to come up with the required matching money forthe grant.

The Lincoln County library work is not the only activity underway or planned for the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin system.

Ledet said the Franklin County library has received a $170,000library commission grant to improve that facility. Franklinsupervisors have agreed to provide 40 percent matching funds forthat project.

“We’re real excited about that,” Ledet said. “It’s going tostart after the first of the year.”