Lake County Public Library in midst of building chapter
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com June 26, 2012 11:28PM
Ken Lane (left) and Ron Blaney of Ziolkowski Construction work on expansion joints on the threshold that spans the new part of the building (left) and the old (right) as construction work on the Lake County Library's main branch continues in Merrillville, Ind. Friday June 15, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:04AM
Two of the Lake County Public Library “destinations” soon will draw patrons with more natural lighting, more computer stations and modern amenities.
The building projects are on schedule and should be done by the end of the year, Director Ana Grandfield said.
The county broke ground earlier this year on its new Griffith branch at 45th Avenue and Colfax Street. Construction in Griffith is going quickly, Grandfield said, because the prep work was done last year and it’s at a different site from the old library, so officials don’t have to worry about accommodating patrons during construction.
Work is expected to wrap up by November, she said, but then the library will take another month or two to transition from the old library.
“You don’t want to open the doors and nothing’s working,” she said.
The new Griffith branch should be open to the public by December or January.
That’s also when the renovation work at the Central branch in Merrillville should finish, too, Grandfield said. That project is taking longer, an expected 18 months, because the library has stayed open during work. It started in August and is on pace to finish on time, she said, which should be by the end of the year.
The renovation work has been expansive, including new windows, heating and cooling systems and brickwork on the exterior to replace aging panels. Rubber lining those panels was decaying. So no matter how much the library cleaned them they still made for a dirty and aged look for the library, Grandfield said.
“We had power-washed and cleaned them, but there’s nothing you could do with the black rubber disintegrating,” she said.
Although the Central branch project has been expensive, an estimated $10 million, Grandfield said many of the changes have been to make the building more energy efficient, which will help lower utility bills in the future. Some of those changes include better insulation and windows that make it easier to cool the building during the summer.
“Our library is very lean and efficient,” Grandfield said. “And we are watching our pennies to make sure we spend our money wisely.”
Other green improvements include a rain garden and getting rid of a third of the back parking lot, which isn’t used much and will help to improve drainage.
Grandfield praised her staff and patrons for working through the construction, especially before the new heating and cooling systems were set up, which meant some rather cold or hot days. She said that patrons have remarked sometimes about the temperature but that she’s never received a formal complaint about the work.
“They understand, I think,” Grandfield said.
Crown Point resident Arionn Parent said that the main branch definitely needed an update.
“They’ll have an expanded computer area where more people can look for jobs,” Parent said. “One day it was closed for construction, but everybody dealt with it pretty well.”
The service has been top-notch throughout the construction, according to Merrillville resident Tumoria Wofford.
“They’ve been very helpful and resourceful, and I haven’t had any problems,” Wofford said.
Patrons of the Griffith branch are excited about the new location’s expanded offerings, including more computer stations.
“When my computer at home is acting up, I come here, but it can get busy and you have to wait for a computer to open up,” said Griffith resident David Shebeth.
The new location is a “great thing,” according to Griffith resident Kathleen Thomas.
“It will be closer to my home,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, they’ll have more books and magazines in the bigger building.”
Staff writer Christin Nance Lazerus contributed to this report.