ST. PETERSBURG — Thousands of patrons who depend on the Main Library will be redirected to branches for three months beginning in May while the 45-year-old building undergoes a major interior overhaul.
The $486,000 in renovations, paid for out of the city's construction budget, are long awaited, library officials said. The library, at 3745 Ninth Ave. N, first opened its doors in 1964. Officials say it is outdated and sorely lacks the workflow efficiency, laptop-friendly furniture and additional computers that modern patrons demand. Not to mention that it needs a paint job and new carpeting.
"It's looking worn, very tired,'' said Elaine Birkinshaw, manager of the main library. "It's time to spruce it up a bit."
The work involves painting all walls and ceilings, replacing carpeting, bathroom renovations, new reference and circulation desks, adding new PC-based desktop computers, and armchairs with tablets for laptops. It also includes new public art.
To accommodate the 1,000 patrons who use the main library every day, staff will move to six other locations. A total of 50 library hours will be added to the branches, including 16 hours on Sunday at two locations yet to be determined. Dozens of desktop computers and materials for children's programs will also be shifted.
Library director Mary S. Gaines said the timing of the work came at the whim of the city budget, but could be worse. By the end of June most schools and colleges will be closed for the summer, she noted.
While much of the material in the main library, including reference books, microfilm, large print books, videos and music will be inaccessible during the renovation, Gaines said patrons will still have access to research librarians via telephone and online databases.
Low-bidder Rauh-Co Construction Services, based in New Port Richey, will perform the work. The $486,000 does not include money for new furniture.
Workwill begin in April, and by May the library will close completely, until the end of July. Officials said the plans will be posted online at splibraries.org.
Library patron Vanessa Munoz cringed when told of the plans. For her, the Main Library isn't just a place for books, but also a place for meeting with her son's tutor.
They live in western St. Petersburg, but Munoz brings her son, Vincent, 7, at the library several times a week because the library is centrally located to both Munoz's workplace and the tutor.
"It's going to be devastating … because we are going to have to dig up another place that's quiet," said Munoz, 43, a nurse's aide.
The last time the library closed for a significant period was in 1988, when it was shuttered for more than a year for asbestos abatement, Gaines said.
Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.