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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The new Main Library Project

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 16, 2017

The plans for the renovation and addition to the Main Library are now finished and being reviewed.


Bob, our Head of Buildings, is working on utility issues in preparation for construction of the project.


We have some diagrams and drawings on display in the Main Library lobby, but I thought you might like to take a walk through what will become the new Main Library building of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.


You will enter the building at a street-level entrance facing Slack Street, where currently the Bookmobile garage doors are located.


The major purpose of this Project is to make the building ADA (Americans with Disability Act) accessible, as this is the last public library building in Ohio that does not meet ADA standards.


The entrance door opens into a hallway, and to the left you will see the restored rear wall of the Carnegie building and a courtyard.  The second door will open into a lobby two stories high which contain new interior stairways and an elevator that will stop on all four levels in the new building.


A public service desk will accept your book returns, or you can pick up things on hold for you, or the staff will direct you to the proper area.


A casual area in the lobby will allow you to use your laptop.  A new Community Meeting Room is off the lobby for library programs and public meetings.


You are on street-level, and the lower-level of the Carnegie building will contain all of the administrative offices for the library system, technical services, and staff support areas.


You can ascend the new stairway, or use the elevator, to access the 1st floor, which is currently the main floor of the Carnegie building and you will arrive at the current public service desk of the library.  This floor will be unchanged from its current arrangement.


Returning to where you accessed the 1st floor, you can again either use the elevator or ascend the new stairs to the new 2nd floor where there is another study and reading area that takes advantage of the large windows in the new addition that will look out on the Cathedral, or north towards the downtown area.


The 2nd floor contains a public service desk, as well as the new Children’s Library, and Computer Room that will house all the public computers, magazines, and reference materials and government documents.


To make this happen, the 1948 garages will be demolished and the Bookmobile and delivery and receiving area will be rotated and reversed and accessed by a new driveway to the south.


The 1963 annex, also in the rear, will be removed as well.


From S. 4th Street, the Main Library will look the same as it does now with the façade of the Carnegie building remaining the same.  All of the new construction is in the rear.


The first plans reused the garage and annex, until we found that it would be advisable to demolish the garages as they could not handle the new construction without major work.


Then we found that one wall of the annex actually “sat” on the earlier wall of the garage, and by the time that was rectified, the additions could be removed and replaced easier than they could be renovated.


The 1902 Carnegie building is a whole different construction story.  The structure is massive and solid, and the additions were built to be removed at some point with plumbing, HVAC, and electrical services ready to be disconnected from the main part of the building.


The Carnegie building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while the annexes are not considered “contributing structures.”


So, the new building is designed to complement the architecture of the Carnegie building, but is not an exact copy which could likely not be done.


The roof of the new building is steep and pointed, the lower walls are stone and the upper walls are brick; not an exact match, but a complementary color.


And no, your colorblind Library Director had no say in the selection of any color tone within this building, or any building that I have administered in my career.


All of this is possible due to a Library Board of Trustees that has well-maintained the buildings of our library system over the years, and has established a Capital Improvement Fund that has been allocated over the years to provide library services to Jefferson County.