Since the August flood, the Greenwell Springs Library has been stripped to the essentials. If patrons want books, they may find them on one of the shelves in the section of the building that's reopened, or they can walk across the bare concrete floor to ask staff at the information desk to look at the stock in the back.
On Monday, librarians unveiled their plans to reinvigorate the 20-year-old, flood-damaged library.
Their $5.2 million design calls for an additional 5,500 square feet largely dedicated to providing space for teenagers, community meeting rooms and workshops. The spartan library also will receive new furnishings. Plans show an emphasis on large windows, low shelves and modern furniture. Together, librarians are aiming for a more open, naturally lit design, parish library Director Spencer Watts said.
Patron Edna Franklin, who attended the meeting to unveil the design, appreciated the light and furnishings, saying it made the "plain" branch look more comfortable and inviting. She usually comes to the library to pick up her books and leave but said she'll be more open to staying once the plans are realized.
Architects are still soliciting public input on their designs. Watts was a fan of their proposals but wondered if there is any space to squeeze in a few more computers. Librarians already have bought dozens of new devices for Greenwell Springs. Branch Manager Geralyn Davis also was impressed and made sure architects included an area for locals to display their art: The branch's gallery space is in high demand and booked months in advance, she said.
The branch, which was built in 1997, was already scheduled for a renovation, and after taking on a half-foot of water last summer, those plans were pushed up a few months, Watts said.
The branch reopened March 3, but about a third of the flood-damaged building is still closed to the public. Nevertheless, it was important to return the library to the community, Davis said. Even if it still looks a bit rough, it's a reflection of the neighborhood and its residents.
"They identify with this space being unfinished," she said.
After being closed so long, librarians decided to plan the refurbishment so the branch can stay open during construction, even if it means stretching out the rebuild a bit. Officials hope to begin work in the fall and expect it to last about 14 months, architect Aaron Babcock said.
Though plans are still being hammered out, the designs call for the creation of a separate space for teens. However, it will be close to the children's section so the teens can still look after younger friends and family members, Davis said.
"They want to keep an eye on one another without being with one another," she said.
The proposal also calls for more meeting spaces, which have proved popular with study groups, business partners, Bible studies and similar groups at other branches, Watts said. The design also includes workshop areas. Specific plans are being ironed out, but they could include room for electronics equipment or audiovisual hardware and software.