Central Library gets $14.9M renovation

From the Houston Public Library Web site:

Exciting New Renovation for the Central Library

Mayor Bill White and Houston City Council approved a construction contract for the renovation of the Houston Public Library Central Library. The $14.9 million contract marks the beginning of the Central Library Renovation Project (CLRP), the largest in the history of the Library system. The project includes updating the IT infrastructure, rebuilding the plaza, expanding and enhancing children’s and teen’s services, and providing additional space for the public.

“We’re committed to making these improvements as efficiently and quickly as possible,” said Mayor White. “When we’re finished, we will have a Central Library complex that all Houstonians can be proud of.”

“Once the renovation is complete, Houston’s flagship library will be vibrant, exciting and better than ever,” said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of libraries. “We are excited about this opportunity to improve the Central Library facility and to expand and enhance our services to make the Central Library truly a destination for all Houstonians.”

The Central Library will close on Monday, April 3, 2006 and is expected to reopen by the end of 2007. Access to the Central Library’s collection and reference services will continue through neighborhood libraries and HPL Express Downtown. For full library service during the renovation, library customers are encouraged to use their neighborhood libraries; HPL has 36 branch libraries throughout the city. To find the location nearest you, call 832-393-1313 or visit www.houstonlibrary.org. In addition, limited library service will be available at HPL Express Downtown.

About the Renovation

The Central Library Jesse H. Jones Building opened in 1976 to become Houston’s Central Library. The building has never been renovated; carpets and furniture in the building have not been replaced in the thirty years since it was opened.

Upgrades and maintenance of the 30-year-old facility are badly needed. Through the renovation process, HPL has the opportunity to redesign the building to deliver exceptional customer service, to reorganize the collection for improved access, and to incorporate new technologies. In addition, the renovation will provide approximately 34,000 sq. ft. of additional space for the public.

“We have assembled a great team of highly motivated professionals to manage this project with extensive experience in design and construction,” said Issa Dadoush, director of the Building Services Department. “We will be monitoring this project very closely in order to provide our client, HPL, and the citizens of Houston with a facility that they will be proud of and can enjoy for many years to come. The Building Services Department is committed to pursuing customer satisfaction and be always responsive.”

The CLRP will begin by closing the second and third floors of the Jones Building, effective the end of business on Sunday, March 5, 2006. After that, only the first floor and the Concourse Level will be open to the public, providing services in Circulation, the Humanities Department, the Bibliographic Information Center, and on the Concourse Level in the Children’s Room. Materials will be retrieved as needed from closed collections, including those on the second and third floors. The entire building will be closed to the public effective Monday, April 3, 2006.

The facility will be updated to comply with new building codes and ADA standards. The escalators will be replaced with a grand staircase, the elevators will be overhauled and an additional elevator will be added. The carpet and furniture will be replaced.

Computers, telecommunication, wireless, and other technologies have developed dramatically since the building was opened, and the existing facility was not designed to support these technologies. The building’s technology infrastructure will be completely rebuilt to address the advances in technology. That means that customers will have access to state of the art technology.

Some of the most visible changes will take place in the Central Library plaza. The plaza will close to the public temporarily to be resurfaced and waterproofed. The Claes Oldenburg red sculpture, Geometric Mouse X, will be placed permanently on a new foundation at the corner of McKinney and Smith, in front of the Julia Ideson Building, where it will be more prominent. A civic art project will be added to the exterior of the building, facing the plaza.

Improvements and changes will be made to public services, creating a better library experience. The collections will be reorganized; the new arrangement will be easier for customers to use independently. “One of the primary goals of the improved Central Library is a reorganization of the service departments, to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” said Dr. Lawson.

HPL administrative personnel will be moved out of the Central Library to the Marston Building. Located at 820 Marston, this building will house the HPL Director’s Office, Financial Services, Human Resources, Marketing and Development, Planning and Programming, and District Coordinators’ offices. Relocating HPL administrative personnel to the Marston Building will open up additional public space at the Central Library. This additional space will allow the Children’s and Teen’s Departments to be relocated from the first floor and the Concourse Level to the 4th floor where there are windows with views of Sam Houston Park and City Hall.

Library service during the Renovation

HPL Express Downtown will open on Monday, April 3, 2006. Located at 500 McKinney (in the Julia Ideson Building, across the plaza from the Central Library), operating hours will be: Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Houston Metropolitan Research Center, housed in the Julia Ideson Building, will remain open on its regular schedule (Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The Central Library will continue to provide circulation services at HPL Express Downtown. Customers can stop by for borrower registration, hold pickup, check out and return of materials, and payment of library fines and fees. Self check capability will be available to streamline circulation service. Book drops will still be available, although their locations may change.

There will be a reference room where customers can find information and consult reference materials including those exclusively available at the Central Library. For faster service, customers may request reference materials in advance by email, through the HPL Web site’s “Ask a Librarian” service, or by telephone at 832-393-1313. Computers will be available in the circulation area to check the catalog and place holds.

The Central Library garage will be closed to the public until construction is complete. A limited amount of metered street parking is available on nearby streets. A number of private and city-owned surface lots and underground garages are also available across Bagby and in the theater district only a few blocks away. HPL will be providing a map highlighting parking options for HPL Express Downtown and the Houston Metropolitan Research Center.

“Although the Central Library Renovation Project may be a temporary inconvenience, once the renovation is completed we are certain that customers will find that it was worth the wait,” said Dr. Lawson. “All customers are encouraged to use their neighborhood libraries. We ask everyone to bear with us during the construction period.”

Central Library staff will continue to provide remote reference service by phone, by mail, and electronically including email and live chat. Some Central Library staff will work in the branch libraries during the renovation to supplement the increase expected in customer service needs at the branches while the renovation is underway.

Customers will still be able to access the Central Library’s collection during renovation. Circulating materials can be requested via self-placed holds on the library’s Web page www.houstonlibrary.org or by telephone request 832-393-1313, to be held for pickup in the HPL Express Downtown or at any HPL location you designate.

Ongoing library service will be provided at all branch locations. Effective Monday, April 10, 2006, the Library’s four regional branches will increase hours to provide service alternatives. The regional branches are: Collier (6200 Pinemont, 832-393-1740), Henington-Alief (7979 South Kirkwood, 832-393-1820), Park Place (8145 Park Place, 832-393-1970), and Scenic Woods (10677 Homestead Rd., 832-393-2030). Their new service hours will be: Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the CLRP, send an email to centralrenovationfaq@cityofhouston.net. You will receive an answer within 3 business days. An updated report on renovation developments will be available on the Library’s Web site at www.houstonlibrary.org.

For more information, please call the Houston Public Library at 832.393.1313 or visit www.houstonlibrary.org.

Author: Paloma Cruz

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