The Baton Rouge library system is going full speed ahead with plans to upgrade facilities, despite recently opening the new Main Library and gearing up to rebuild the downtown River Center Branch Library.
Members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control on Thursday reviewed proposed renovations to come in the next decade for every branch in the system.
The next changes in the works are for the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library. The facility will get a $1.4 million improvement in the summer with an expansion of the teen section and additions of more meeting spaces.
Architects described problems with many of the library’s existing buildings, including a lack of designated teen areas, a need for more meeting rooms and a difficult-to-decipher system of layouts. In addition, architects said libraries should evoke a living-room ambiance and be destinations for technology.
Library Director Spencer Watts said he hopes to see every library in the 14-branch network upgraded in the next 10 to 15 years, save the ones that were either just built or are under construction now.
Library staffers have not yet determined the order for the projects, though Watts said the age of the buildings would be a deciding factor.
“One of our first priorities is the technology. When the libraries were built in the 1990s, they were not built for the needs we have today,” library board President Tanya Freeman said.
The money for upgrades to the Bluebonnet library has been set aside since staffers relocated its genealogy collection. An expanded young adult area with translucent panels and light blue and lavender tones will occupy that space, while builders will expand work rooms and add study rooms and audio/visual areas.
Baton Rouge-based architect Lisa Hargrave said she expects the project to go to bid in March. Renovations are expected to start in May and to be completed by January.
The library board members also looked toward the future by reviewing architects’ ideas for upgrades to other branches. Architects suggested adding more meeting spaces and downsizing staffing areas at every branch.
“When you walked into a space, you were attacked by a service desk,” Dallas-based architect Bill Hidell said.
One of the most extensive and expensive renovations would come to the Delmont Gardens Branch Library, at a cost ranging between $8 million and $8.3 million. The majority of fixes to other library branches were estimated to cost between $3 million and $6 million.
Architects also showed the possibilities of transforming the Zachary Branch Library and Baker Branch Library into regional hubs by expanding them.