Youngest patrons welcome renovations at library main branch

Andrew Richardson (far right) keeps an eye on his son, Cameron Richardson (center), 22 months, as he finds a new toy to play with in the newly remodeled Children’s Department of the Huntington City-Township Public Library on Friday, Jan. 3. The library will host an open house this Friday, Jan. 10, and Saturday, Jan. 11, to celebrate the completion of the renovation project.
Andrew Richardson (far right) keeps an eye on his son, Cameron Richardson (center), 22 months, as he finds a new toy to play with in the newly remodeled Children’s Department of the Huntington City-Township Public Library on Friday, Jan. 3. The library will host an open house this Friday, Jan. 10, and Saturday, Jan. 11, to celebrate the completion of the renovation project. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

It finished up a bit later than anticipated and cost a bit more than was bid, but the renovations at the Huntington City-Township Public Library’s Huntington branch are now in use and have been welcomed by – primarily – the library’s youngest patrons.

Executive Director Beka Lemons says it’s been about 19 months since the library’s Children’s Department underwent its first space planning back in April of 2018. Bidding took place in September 2018 and construction started a month later. It was completed, for all practical purposes, by the end of November 2019.

“There are a couple of little things that we have to fix, as there are in any construction project,” says Lemons. “As of right now, we are substantially complete. We’re still hanging artwork, touching up paint and fixing little things here and there as we find them.”

Lemons says the project came in at a little more than the expected $1.2 million, ending around $1.7 million. However, it did not include any square footage expansion, but rather some rearranging of the Children’s Department and consolidation of the library’s administrative offices.

“In the old Children’s Department, there were two different areas and they were kind of catty-cornered to each other and it was hard to see one from the other and it was hard for kids to go from one place to another,” she explains. “The only play space we had was out in the middle of the hallway, in front of the bathroom. So, we knew we needed to do something about that.”

Lemons’ goal was to have a dedicated play area for school-aged kids as well as younger children. The old administration offices were torn out and moved to the corner end of the hallway on the State Street side, allowing the children’s area to become one big open space.

“This end of the building was put up in 1984, and hadn’t seen any update since,” Lemons adds. “We wanted to just go ahead and make those updates, modernize the furniture, put some color in, make it a little brighter, a little more comfortable, easier to use and make it make sense for folks when they come in.”

Renovations stopped where the adult fiction section begins, Lemons notes, where a $3.4 million expansion took place in 2010, adding 13,000 square feet to the library and more than doubling the children’s section. There were also no changes made to the Keefer Center, formerly the Indiana Room.
One of the main reasons for the overage in costs was due to adding a new fire alarm system to the project. Lemons said it needed to be updated anyway and the library saved money by doing it during the construction work.
Features of the renovations include separate areas for three age groups, babies, toddlers and school-aged children. The Plum Tree Community Room provides a place for the popular story time events. A new Discovery Lab for ages 6 to 12 gives youngsters a place to create science and art activities. And new, comfy and fun furniture can be found throughout the department, as well as more tables for pupils to work on their homework.

“When we have eLearning days the kids are in here working on their homework and we have plenty of capacity for that now, where we struggled a little with that before,” Lemons adds. “There’s more space, it’s bright, it’s fun and it’s more interactive than it used to be.”

There are also new toy stations for kids to play at, including a puppet theater with plenty of puppet characters to tell stories with.
Consolidating the administrative offices into one spot has alleviated cramped quarters and also given some staff members their own individual offices as well as a new storage room.

Lemons says the goal was to make the library more accessible and welcoming for patrons to use, as well as sensible.

“We’ve set up places for people to work and to study. We’ve tried to have some quiet areas in the back and some tables people can work at,” she says. “We’ve tried to make it more comfortable so that people can come in here, use the building the way that they want to, and be able to stay in here and feel like they want to be here. We’ve done that for kids, for teens and for adults, so everybody’s got something new and everybody’s got a space now that is their space.”

Besides the physical amenities the updates provide, Lemons says the library is working on providing new programs and providing services to better meet the needs of its patrons.

A two-day event to celebrate the completion of the renovations will take place Friday and Saturday, Jan. 10 and 11.

On Friday, the library will host an open house for adults only from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. called “Night at the Library.” Patrons can participate in a craft beer testing with the brews donated by Chapman’s Brewing Company – Huntington Taproom. Other activities include a virtual reality activity, escape room, ebook help, play in the Discovery Lab, take a tour of the building and five drink stations and food.

Tickets are free but limited and reservations may be made by calling the reference desk at 356-0824 or by emailing ref@hctpl.info.

A family-friendly celebration for all ages is set for Saturday, Jan. 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The same activities will be available as the night before, but snacks and alcohol-free beverages will be provided during the open house.

The Huntington branch is located at 255 W. Park Drive, Huntington.