Clark County Public Library to receive $2.6M renovation

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By the numbers

$2.6 million: State funding to renovate the Clark County Public Library, 201 S. Fountain Ave.

70,000: Cardholders at the library.

1 million: Annual circulation at the library.

The Clark County Public Library will spend about $2.6 million to renovate its aging Main Library branch in downtown Springfield to improve safety and provide more services.

The construction will include new entrances at the 201 S. Fountain Ave. location, which was built in 1988. Other renovations include updates to the Gaier Room, more meeting space, a dedicated technology training lab, new carpet, a replacement heating and air conditioning system and relocated restrooms, Director Sally Rizer said.

The library’s rotunda will become an area for reading, Rizer said.

A temporary entrance has been constructed on the parking lot side of the building for patrons to access the building during during construction. It will serve as the main entrance to the facility beginning this week, she said.

The building has deferred maintenance issues it put off addressing during lean years, Board President Dan Haemmerle said.

“Instead of going at it piecemeal, it became very apparent a better way to go about it was to resolve a lot of issues at one time,” Haemmerle said. “It was the best way we felt to get to a resolution. It just made sense. … When it’s all said and done, it will turn that building into something that will be viable for the community for another 25 to 30 years.”

The project is paid for through state tax dollars and private donations, Rizer said, and is expected to be completed in November. The organization receives about $4 million annually from the state’s public library fund.

The library collected about $1.6 million last year in local levy funds, which won’t be used for the construction, Rizer said. Voters approved a permanent 1.32-mill levy in 2010 after the library reduced its hours in 2009 due to state budget cuts.

“That money is purely for operations,” she said.

Since then the library restored normal hours in 2011. It has also increased annual spending for materials by 25 percent over the past few years, Public Relations Manager Allison Peck said.

An addition added in 1996 created a dark entrance off the parking lot, Rizer said, and the wooden pergola has begun to rot.

Library staff and board members began discussions last year about covering the pergola and making the entrances more user friendly, she said.

“It just mushroomed into a larger project,” Rizer said. “People will be able to drive up and let someone out by the door. They won’t have as far to walk in.”

The carpet and heating and air systems are original to the building, she said, and needed to be replaced.

“We just took this opportunity to do some of the maintenance we needed to do,” Rizer said.

The board unanimously approved the renovation for the nearly 30-year-old building, Haemmerle said. Without the local levy money, he said the renovation wouldn’t be possible.

“There’s always going to be a naysayer out there, but if you look at the new trends, libraries are doing more than just books … I know people think it’s a new building, but it’s not,” he said. “It was built in the 1980s. It needed some things and this was a logical time to put it all together.”

The library hopes to stay open regular hours throughout the construction process, Rizer said, but could close at times due to issues with water or electricity. The four other branches and the library’s online system will remain available for patrons.

The library has 78 employees with an annual budget of about $5 million, Rizer said. It has more than 70,000 card holders and annual circulation is more than 1 million for its collection of books, DVDs and other items.

The library needs a face lift, said Springfield resident Clarence Fent, who was checking out movies on Monday afternoon.

“Springfield needs it,” Fent said.

The renovation is important for the future of Clark County library patrons, South Vienna resident Brenda Hockett said.

“It needs to be done,” Hockett said. “It’s just like your home. You need to keep everything kept up.”