Library's new look will give it more of a ‘presence' on East Carson Street
"There are some college students who don't know that Carnegie Library's South Side branch is actually a library. I met somebody who thought that it was the public welfare office."
The participant's comments were made at a planning session held Jan. 19 at the branch; a previous meeting to obtain residential opinions had been held in November.
Refurbishing of the library's outside front façade is part of the plans for a renovation project expected to cost $2.7 million in capital grants specifically restricted to the South Side Branch. Work on the project will take eight to ten months, with abatement starting in July and construction beginning in August.
South Siders have complained about the unattractive appearance of the library which was first built in 1909.
Architects Karen Loysen and Sallyann Kluz presided over the discussion; gave an update on the renovation plans to the more than 40 residents in attendance; and, sought more input. Architect Peter Kreuthmeier also attended but did not comment.
"We are going to reintroduce the Grand Staircase, such as was originally built by the firm of Alden and Harlow. Also, the ramp used by handicapped, delivery men and women with strollers will be reconfigured and will have a shallow slope and will meet the existing sidewalk," Ms. Loysen said.
The new look "will give us more of a presence on the street," Ms. Kluz said.
Inside there will be a new elevator so visitors can use the second floor or the basement, now called the ground floor.
There is expected to be light occupancy for the second floor which will have a staff lounge and restrooms, and meeting rooms for chess clubs or computer classes. A multi-purpose meeting room for attendees of up to 100 will be on the ground floor.
The architects said they are still deciding how to reconfigure staff parking and are reviewing proposals regarding installing furniture.
Ms. Kluz announced "this will be the first historic Carnegie Library building to use a geo-thermal system" for heating.
Geo-thermal energy is thermal energy generated by and stored within the earth. It is considered cost effective, reliable and environmentally friendly.
Another important feature of the library when renovated will be its capacity for plugging in computers anywhere within the building.
The designers are honoring all the requests they heard for a specific space dedicated for the teens.
"This space will be very generous," Ms. Kluz said.
However, there will be "trade-offs." A "quiet room," suggested by a resident, was replaced during the planning by a "children's nook." There will be some "quieter zones" within the library, Ms. Loysen said.
Windows will be restored and a slate roof will be installed. Brick and stone work damage, due to the building's age, will be repaired.
The renovation plan is on a fast track since the grant money to fund repairs must be spent by a set date. Ideas for repairs had been discussed in recent years and opinions were obtained by surveys but plans were never implemented since other reconstruction projects took priority.
"Our ideas are based on what we have heard so far from community members," Ms. Kluz said.
"We're limited in space but we are trying to keep all the populations that use the library happy," Ms. Loysen said.