Belleville Public Library, one of 1,689 U.S. libraries built with grants from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, is continuing to undergo renovations.
Built with a Carnegie grant of $20,000 awarded in April 1909, the library has cost a lot more to make over: In 2011 the library Board of Trustees authorized spending nearly $400,000 to expose the original façade, install several skylights and improve accessibility.
And now, as part of what Library Director Joan Taub described as “phase 2” of a renovation project, the board is investing an additional $664,900 to “make over the whole second floor with casual seating and low tables that will, eventually, accommodate laptops.
Stairs leading to the second floor are being relocated to the space formerly occupied by the director’s corner office on the Academy St. side of the building and her new office and conference center will be shifted to the area where library patrons accessed computers.
Taub said the reconfiguration is designed “to make things more efficient.”
Three Sons Restoration LLC of Union was awarded the phase 2 contract on Jan. 8 but the contractor didn’t start the job until around April, according to Taub. The work was expected to take about three and a half months to complete, she added.
The job hasn’t impacted library activities or hours, although spaces dedicated to specialized services have been shifted to some extent. “Our reference and computer access are still available and our circulation and children’s rooms have been combined,” Taub said.
Taub has moved her office downstairs to merge with other administrative staff.
And the library’s main entrance has been moved from Washington Ave. to the Academy St. side of the building.
“We’re kind of used to it,” said Taub, referring to disruption of the normal routine. “I’ve been working in this building since 1989, when I was reference librarian, and as director since 1999, and we’ve gone through various construction jobs before but my wonderful staff makes it easy to adapt.”
When the laptops arrive, patrons will be able to carry them into other parts of the library to use, Taub said.
How many laptops the library will be ordering – and how much they’ll cost – isn’t yet known. “We haven’t gone before the board on that yet,” the director said.
– Ron Leir