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Library work nears final chapter

Jennifer Sprouse • Mar 30, 2012 at 11:18 PM

If you were wondering why you couldn’t check out books at the Johnson City Public Library this week, there’s a good reason.

From the outside looking in, the library’s staff resembled a team of worker bees, working to finish lengthy renovation projects in their workplace hive. Shutting down the library from Monday until Sunday was a necessity, Bob Swanay, the director of the library, said as crews installed new carpet, moved furniture and refinished hardwood floors on the first and second floors.

“There were a few other things that we wanted to get done, that we knew we needed to get done, that we just kind of (have) taken advantage of this whole project,” Swanay said.

After a few hits and misses concerning the carpet, the goose chase was over and the new carpet from Mohawk Industries Inc. in Calhoun, Ga., arrived ready to be installed.

Swanay said the carpet problem delayed a lot of their renovation completion plans dating back to last fall.

“Our expectation was to reopen the area in early October ... but we just never were able to do it because of the carpet,” he said. “Until we had carpet down, we couldn’t do the furniture or the computers or the shelving.”

Swanay said Mohawk Group, wanting to fix the mistakes, gave the library a more expensive, better quality carpet at no additional cost, and also donated additional carpet for the library to redo the meeting room, the elevators and the front walkways.

With the carpet squared away, library staff helped put together shelves and move items around to their new home.

“The second floor is where the major action has happened. That’s where you’ll see the brand new computer center,” Swanay said. “We’ve always had computers for the public in the library, but in the previous layout the computers were kind of scattered around the reference desk on the second floor and we had computer carrel furniture.”

Saying goodbye to the carrels, the PC computers available for the public will now be in a designated location, facing a newly built wall with a SmartBoard attached.

“For people that aren’t using the computers, it sort of makes it easier to navigate through the library without having to bump up against it,” Swanay said. “If you don’t need to be in the computer center, that doesn’t have to get in your way and anything else that you’re doing.”

One of the goals of the media center, he said, was to allow the library to increase their training on a variety of subjects for the public.

“In the new layout, that’s where we’ll do this kind of training. We really couldn’t do that sort of thing in the previous layout, so we really needed to restructure the library for us to be able to realize these new priorities,” he said.

Directly behind the computer area, three private group study rooms have been created for any person or group to use.

Just on the other side of the newly built wall, shelving has been strategically placed from left to right to hold DVDs, CDs, audio books and graphic novels, to tie in with the media center theme, Swanay said.

In the past, the media items were on the first floor, but he said the renovations made it possible for the library to move the media items up and create more space.

“We wanted to just sort of open that area (on the first floor) up and just have more of tables, chairs, comfortable seating workspace,” Swanay said. “Some of this other stuff, as great as it is that we’ve done, we’ve lost a little bit of table space, so that’s an area down there where we’ve regained it.”

Even with the earlier setbacks, Swanay said he is pleased with the progress of the library.

“A lot of pre-planning work went into this and it’s one thing to set goals and it’s another thing to see it on an architectural plan,” he said. “Now it’s coming to fruition and we’re just excited to put it into practice and to see what happens. I do understand that not everything will work out exactly the way we’ve planned, but I hope there are happy accidents, as well as whatever else.”

Swanay said the American Recovery Act grant opportunity that the State Library of Tennessee was able to get the library gave them the opportunity to do renovations. Funding for additional carpeting for the first floor was given by the City Commission, so they could match the carpet with the second floor.

While renovations such as carpet installation and refinishing the hardwood floors are scheduled to be completed before the library reopens Monday, Swanay said smaller renovations and furniture relocation will still be works in progress.

“We’re maybe slightly more behind with getting the furniture moved around than we’d like to be, but some of us are just going to work through the weekend,” he said. “We’re always open to tweaking and fixing, so if we didn’t get everything just right in this pass, then we’ll get it to where it’s as good as it can be.”

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