Lafayette main library renovations to be completed by April _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- The Lafayette Public Library downtown is still undergoing a renovation project Wednesday in Lafayette.

Despite the original holiday deadline, the renovation of the main branch of the Lafayette Public Library will continue into the new year with a new completion date in April.

After breaking ground in May 2013, the original shell of the three-story building on West Congress Street remains, but the layout has been altered to include new amenities like study rooms, a genealogy collection and a technology lab.

“With any kind of construction, you run into some delays,” said Sona Dombourian, public libraries director. “Until the building is finished and turned over to us, there will still be delays. We have to coordinate times with not only the contractor but with the furniture manufacturers and the movers.”

The intricate shelving system is awaiting inspection, and the service desks are being installed.

Much of the branch’s inventory had been stored in a warehouse, but a third of the library’s book collection is housed at the temporary Jefferson Street location.

Dombourian said she expects an entire month will be dedicated to relocating the books.

Included in the renovations are plans to purchase new titles to update the book collection. Before the library opens, at least 20,000 books will be purchased and added to the existing 200,000. The Friends of the Library donated $13,000 to rebuild the children’s book section. More than 75 public access computers will be available, which almost doubles the original 38 computers.

In place of the former story time pit, the library will boast a new story time room that will reflect its “Story Castle” program, along with a teen section and a vending machine area overlooking the garden. The meeting room has been moved to the second floor, and the third floor will now house the genealogy collection and the technology lab.

Each floor will have separate study rooms.

This summer, the South Regional branch’s technology lab was expanded with the addition of a $4,000 3-D printer and 3-D digitizer. Similar technology will be available at the main branch but on a larger scale.

“It’s not just about teaching Microsoft Office and Excel anymore,” Dombourian said. “We are giving people of all ages the tools for something they won’t just go to the store and purchase. We are giving people the chance to acquire skills to get a job and skills to get through life.”

Because of the library’s partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the increased demand for skills in video production, computer animation and computer training, the original plans for the main library’s technology lab needed expansion as well.

Modernizing the 41-year-old building’s construction alone cost about $10.5 million.

The project has been funded by a $40 million bond measure that voters approved in 2002 to renovate the main library and build four new regional branch libraries.

“The library is 65,000 square feet, so it feels like we are moving into two 30,000-square-foot houses,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen overnight, but we can see the finish line.”