Main library is project moving along

It has been some time since I have provided an update of the main library project.

Work is under way on the renovation of the lower level of the Carnegie building. That area will become staff area serving the needs of the entire library system.

It will contain the administrative office for the system as well as the technical services area where books and audiovisuals are prepared and added to the computer network for the whole system.

Services to support the countywide library system also will take place on the lower level.

The biggest improvement for the area will be the new access corridor extending the length of the space from the boiler room door to the former children’s library on the opposite end. A lot of newfound space will be utilized by staff.

And speaking of the boiler, the steam heating system in the Carnegie building will be retained and reused, including restoration of the radiators. Heat will continue to be dispersed through the 1902 piping and the 1999 boiler.

The lowered ceilings of the lower level all have been removed to allow new utilities, including electrical, plumbing, computer systems and lighting to be eplaced.

Actually, all of the utilities for the new addition go through the Carnegie, building as the two buildings together form a new complex for the library.

All of the Carnegie building will be “relamped” with LED lighting to take advantage of the better lighting and lower electrical usage. A new electrical room services the whole facility.

Work inside the new addition also is moving along. One of the workers asked me what I look at every time he sees me roam through with my white hard hat.

I told him that four years of planning are coming together in reality and I can see everything that was planned and discussed over that time period.

I also said that I have a strong sense of responsibility for the project as it will belong to everyone in the community of Jefferson County, and I want it to be correct. I want everyone to “own” this new facility and proudly take possession of it.

The new street-level entrance will face Slack Street and enter the new two-story atrium that connects the Carnegie building to the new building with new interior stairs wrapped around the new elevator. The back wall of the Carnegie building will be revealed again with an entrance onto the first floor with a public service desk inside the door.

The first floor of the Carnegie building remains the same with some changes around the desk area, including the reveal of the 1902 marble and wood floor for the first time since 1952.

The front door and steps will remain as an emergency exit only.

Half of the street-level of the new building will contain the Bookmobile department of the library, which serves the entire county, with the new community room also occupying that space to allow a separate programming area.

The second floor of the new addition, like the first floor, has a seating area allowing the public to use laptop computers as well as various devices for downloading information or simply using the Internet.

A public computer area, reference area and two study rooms also will be on the second floor, as well as public restrooms.

The children’s library moves to the second floor with spacious large windows looking out, unlike the former area in the basement.

Much of the staff area as well as the children’s library will reuse existing furniture and shelving, and the first floor of the Carnegie building is basically unchanged from its former look.

The 1920s board room table will return, as well as much of the furniture purchased in 1936 from the state of Ohio shops, as well as shelving acquired in 1990.

New seating will be added to some of the new areas with access to electricity and WiFi to allow the public’s devices to access the Internet.

There are some new, interesting views of the Carnegie building from the window access of the new building showing architecture that had been formerly hidden from the 1948 Bookmobile garages.

Since the Carnegie building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the plans and design for the project had to be approved by the Steubenville Historic Landmarks Commission. I will remember the theme that the new building had to be “architecturally sympathetic” to the Carnegie building; yet at the same time it had to be different enough that the old and new building would stand out against each other.

(Hall, a resident of Steubenville, is assistant director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)