The doors to the newly renovated main library downtown at the corner of Lafayette and Congress streets could reopen to patrons before summer, according to library officials eager for the long-awaited day to arrive.
“We’re hoping that we’re within six weeks from being open to the public. We’ve started our move-in,” libraries Director Sona Dombourian told members of the Lafayette Public Library Foundation during its annual meeting and awards ceremony Friday.
The downtown library has been operating for the past four years from an old storefront on Jefferson Street, where it relocated to make way for major renovations to the building where it has traditionally operated downtown.
The renovations included relocating the building’s entrance to Lafayette Street and giving the 1970s-dated interior a face-lift. The closed-off third floor that had been used as storage and office space is now a reference section and genealogy area.
“Now, all three floors will be open to the public,” Dombourian said.
She said crews have started to return the books that have sat on shelves in a warehouse for the past four years to new shelves in the renovated branch.
Dombourian shared the update following the foundation’s awards ceremony. The foundation gave its Major Donor Award in honor of a group of women who worked together to fund and organize Lafayette’s first library in 1932.
The women’s group is known as Les Vingt Quatre — the 24 in French. The group has continued its philanthropic efforts in Lafayette, now championing the Alexandre Mouton House, a museum in downtown Lafayette.
The foundation’s treasurer, Adele Blue, referenced Les Vingt Quatre’s efforts and seed money of $20 to purchase books in New Orleans to start the library as she presented Dombourian with a check for more than $5,000.
“When I think all this started with someone going to New Orleans with $20 to go buy books. We’re some 83 years later, and it gives me great pleasure to give our libraries director a check for $5,975 toward 239 books,” Blue said.
The foundation presented its Foundation Award to Denelle Wrightson, director of library architecture at Dewberry. Wrightson designed the renovations to the main library downtown, as well as other new libraries constructed and planned in the parish.
The foundation’s President’s Award was given to Darrell Bourque, former Louisiana poet laureate and professor emeritus in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for his work as a mentor and teacher of poetry in communities across Acadiana and the country.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.