Library is closed during final stages of remodeling

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Albert Lea Public Library staffers put &8220;closed&8221; signs up last Wednesday and shut all the doors as the remodeling project moves into its final stages. The doors will swing open again on Monday, Sept. 10. The staff hope that the last nail will have been hammered, the paint will be dry and the carpeting all in place, so they can get back to serving patrons with the books they want and the information they need.

Behind the closed doors are three construction zones in varying stages of completion: The new children&8217;s library awaiting final touches, the second floor information library partially finished, and the upper floor fiction library still full of tools and workers. Staffers have worked around the construction. Whenever a section became even partially finished or temporarily empty, staffers rushed in to pack up materials that had to be protected from asbestos and debris. They are shifting items from one set of shelves to another, finding empty spaces where processing can go on and generally doing everything necessary to handle, pack up, unpack, and replace every book, CD, DVD, computer and fixture, as well as the hundreds of other items needed in a working library.

During the past two weeks while the new children&8217;s library was operational in a partially completed state, patrons could appreciate the scope and design. The space is light and bright with soft neutral walls and wood colored washable flooring. Colorful blue shelving is now filled with books and the first strokes of a delightful mural can be seen on the back wall. Wood trimmed end panels and canopies for the shelving await installation. In front of the bank of lake view windows, a handcrafted puppet theater will be rolled into place and upholstered benches for waiting parents added. Two children&8217;s computer centers will soon be operational. A cloakroom for winter boots and coats and a small craft room for art projects will serve young patrons.

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Library staffers have completed one of their biggest tasks: dividing and rearranging a two-part library collection of 80,000 items into a three-part collection. A crew of volunteers packed up all the non-fiction items now reshelved on skeletal stacks in the second floor information library. End panels and shelving canopies are due for installation there this week. Technicians from the Southeastern Library Cooperative are also scheduled this week to hook up ten new public access computers in this area. Behind the south wall a new computer lab is finished and fully equipped.

Between the two second floor sections of the library a semi-circular circulation center awaits handsome lettering announcing that this is the &8220;Albert Lea Public Library.&8221; As soon as carpet layers finish their work, built-in bookcases will be installed on the wall behind the circulation center.

In the upper floor lobby and hallways, boxes holding tons of books are piled up waiting for construction to finish in the old adult library space that will become the new fiction library and the teen/young adult section. Asbestos removal is complete and installation of new lighting is underway. New workstations outfit the staff workroom. Paint, ceiling, and carpeting are still to come. Only then can shelves be constructed and the unpacking and reshelving of these books begin.