Nine months into the $5.3-million Safety Harbor Library expansion, construction workers walk around wearing hard hats. Staff members don masks when they venture into the dusty, gutted interior of the structure. And the morning sun dries newly poured cement on the rotunda. Yet it's still a fine time to come and check out a book.
"We have a small collection of books, audiotapes, DVDs and newspapers,'' said library director Lana Bullian. "We are trying to stay open as much as possible throughout the project.''
The expansion, which began in early March, will add 9,300 square feet to the 15,000-square-foot facility, which had been overcrowded for years.
The children's library is up and running.
"It's wonderful," said Ashley Grubbs of Safety Harbor, who brings her two children to the library. "It's more accessible. You can find things easier. The children's section is a lot larger. They've done a good job."
Also finished are a meeting room, study rooms and a conference room, but those areas are not yet open.
Bullian hated to do it, but was forced to close the library for most of October so thousands of books could be transferred to a cold storage unit to prevent mildewing. Shelves were stored in a trailer.
She said the facility will close again, "so we can put everything back,'' but she's not sure when.
By April or May, when the library hosts its grand reopening, patrons will enjoy a new teen area, a business resource section, a larger bookstore, a covered book drop and a cafe-style rotunda featuring the latest releases, a comfortable lounging area and perhaps even a coffee cart.
Bullian can't wait.
"We miss all the customers,'' she said.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.