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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.

Main Library Schedule

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 28, 2018

One year ago this week, the Main Library closed for the renovation and construction to make the facility ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliant for the first time in its 117 year history.

 

I had hoped that we could have kept the Carnegie building open in the process, but the demolition of the annex and garages caused a loss of restrooms; and the major renovation of the lower level of that building made remaining open impossible.

 

A discussion with potential contractors found that they all wanted the building closed during this major construction for liability issues.

 

Despite large signs on the front door, and publicity in the newspaper, TV, cable, and social media, I am surprised that we still have people at the door to determine if the library is open.

 

The original substantial completion date was Dec. 20 of this year, but that has now been extended to Feb. 1, 2019

 

In April and May, difficulties were encountered with the shop drawings and fabrication of the steel for the building, which was all produced and manufactured in the U.S.

 

That delayed the construction 4-6 weeks, followed by a rainy summer season.  The original date was in the month of Dec., which is a difficult time to obtain materials from suppliers.

 

The new Feb. completion date means that the complex will be largely finished at that time except for “punch list” items needing addressed by the contractors.

 

There will still be another 2 months of interior “library work” which is complicated in our project due to the new shelving and furniture needing to be installed, as well as the equipment and furniture being reused and reinstalled.

 

For example, all of the equipment and furniture in the children’s department came from the former area of the Carnegie building and will need reinstallation and adjustment to fit the physical space of the new building.

 

The same is true for the reference and public computer area, except that area has all new equipment and a completely new space.

 

The 1st floor of the Carnegie building is about the same, with all the shelving remaining in-place and only the original marble floor being refinished (and revealed).

 

The entrance to the 1st floor is reversed to access from the new building’s central 2-story atrium with new interior stairways and a first-ever elevator.

 

The lower level of the Carnegie building is being completely renovated and will house all of the staff areas that serve the whole library system.

 

Actually, about 40 percent of the complex will be staff areas for countywide services including the Bookmobile department, shipping and receiving, technical services, and staff work areas.

 

About 60 percent of the complex will be public areas including reading rooms with computer Wi-Fi, study rooms, a conference room, book and AV collections, and a meeting room for programming.

 

The masonry has started being installed to the new building, and many people want to know why it isn’t red brick.

 

The Carnegie building is on the National Register of Historic Places and as such any exterior renovation must be reviewed and approved by the Steubenville Historic Landmarks Commission.

 

The guidelines of that agency, as well as the Ohio Preservation Office is that rather than “matching” the existing brick color, the new annex should have a “contrasting color” to the historic structure; and should be “architecturally sympathetic” to that structure.

 

Therefore, a tan color Belden brick was selected with a matching stone base around the building with a darker granite base, the structure of which is similar to the Carnegie building.  Gray concrete panels join the old and new buildings, and the long side facing 5th St. also has that same insert around the 2-story windows.

 

Six stone corners enhance the building with a steep roof structure similar, but somewhat shorter than the massive peaked roof of its older cousin structure.

 

I am sure there will be varying opinions as to the construction in the same way people commented in 1902 to the Victorian Romanesque style of the Carnegie building.

 

The two buildings only join at the 2-story atrium, the remainder being separated which makes some interesting interior views of each building.

 

I sometimes apply a human aspect to the buildings, and wonder if they talk back and forth at night.  Is the Carnegie whispering to the new building, welcoming it to the complex?