News From Terre Haute, Indiana


June 12, 2014

Library to begin major renovations Monday at main branch

East wing to be closed 2 weeks for first stage; adjustments being made to keep items available

TERRE HAUTE — A $500,000 project that will renovate the east and west wings of the Vigo County Public Library, add a new teen section and rearrange a children’s section is slated to start Monday.

Up first is the east wing, along Seventh Street, expected to take two to three weeks to complete.

This project includes new carpeting and a new configuration for shelving for books.

The wing’s reference desk will also be relocated into the center of the room, as well as two seating/reading areas.

Librarians “will be highly visible out to the lobby. They will be able to direct you, line of sight, and you will see the librarian right away. A librarian would also be able to see the lobby should there be a problem,” library director Kristi Howe said.

The east wing houses new books, digital video discs and an audio book collection, along with music compact discs. This wing will be closed to the public during renovation.

“They can’t fit everything in this room somewhere else in the library. That is just a given, that not everything will be accessible,” Howe said. “But we are working to have the staff, if you need something, the staff will help you put it on hold. When the construction guys leave in the evening, if areas are safe for staff, we will pull those holds and notify you that you can come pick it up.”

To carpet the wing, heavy book stacks will be moved back and forth. “They will start to compress them in one direction, lay carpet, then start to collapse them in the other direction and lay carpet. It is going to be a little dance between the stack movers and the carpet layers,” Howe said.

Once the east wing is completed, work will shift to the west wing.

“We may see a little bit of overlap between the two rooms, but we are really trying to focus all the work in one space so we can use the other space with our customers and then flip flop,” Howe said.

In the west wing, the biggest renovation, expected to take eight weeks, is adding five study rooms and one conference room. This wing will also get new carpeting, plus an expansion of the special collections area and a central space for all public-access computers and a relocated reference desk.

“We have this beautiful building with the high ceilings and the wood and the beams, but it doesn’t do much to help us keep areas quiet for focused study,” Howe said. “That’s OK, as libraries have changed. This isn’t an academic library or museum. We want to promote conversation and a sense of community, but we do have some customers who are using the library as a tool to study for college classes or maybe taking exams here online.

 “We also have a lot of tutor/student activity here at the library,” Howe said.

 The new study rooms will have floor to ceiling walls with glass fronts. The rooms will not be 100 percent sound proof, Howe said.

 “We will also expand the local history and genealogy area a little bit,” Howe said. “A lot of the change in this wing is about obtaining square footage for a couple of reasons. One, is so we can better preserve and exhibit some of the unique pieces that we have,” she said.

Some exhibits could be a map collection of early French settlers, as well as original documents of planning/landscaping for the city of Terre Haute from George E. Kessler.

 The renovation of the special collections area will create work spaces for people working on genealogy and other projects. It will allow for an additional microfilm reader and an additional computer, but “really more for tables and chairs and more display/exhibit spaces,” Howe said.

 The Wabash Valley Genealogy Society donated $1,000 for a new computer for that space, Howe said.

The east and west wings are about $300,000 of the total project. The remainder of the renovations will include establishing a teen area and then rearranging the youth section.

“Part of that is just the domino effect. The space that we want to put our teens in is currently being used by adults, but to move them out, we need to complete [the east and west wings]. It is like when you are working in your home, you have to finish one project before the next one can happen,” Howe said.

The teen space will be moved onto the first floor, from the basement. That work will likely start in the fall, Howe said. “Teens don’t have a separate space in the library. We just have adult services and youth services. That is really a difficult expectation for teenagers to be expected to fully integrate with the birth through 5 or 6 crowd,” Howe said.

“They will get a whole room on the first floor. It will likely be a wireless room, no wired PCs, but more laptops and tablets. We will have gaming elements built in. It will be a nice place for them to be able to be teenagers,” Howe said. “They are important part of our population. We have great volunteers here at the library that are teens and we work with them to do fundraising.”

 That work is expected to start in the fall, Howe added.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or

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