LAVALE — The LaVale Library is in the midst of a major renovation, and will eventually become the Allegany County Library System’s flagship site due to its geographically central location within the county.
Around the start of the new year, the renovations on the building started in ernest, with the total project cost estimated to be about $4.8 million, said John Taube, director of the library system. The contract for the project was awarded in November to Daystar Builders Inc. of Grantsville. If work stays on schedule, the library will likely reopen in the late summer of 2022.
“The LaVale Library was opened in 1975; this is its first renovation since then,” Taube said. “And just like your house, after a while things start to get old and need to be upgraded. With the introduction of computers, the internet and all of those things, it was time to take a look at all of the mechanical systems and electricity to make sure that the facility was up to date and modern and flexible.”
The LaVale location will shape the future of the system, Taube said, as it will be the largest branch, have the largest collection and the most hours. For most of the region’s populace, it is within reach and close to the heart of major shopping hubs in the county.
“It’s going to allow the other five branches to sharpen their focus on the communities that they serve because they won’t necessarily have to have as many ‘what if’ items,” he said. “’What if’ (items) will be available within the county at the LaVale library, so the other branches will be able to be a little bit more specialized and focused on what their communities really want.”
Another factor in the decision to centralize in LaVale was the location had extra land available to support an expansion; whereas the other branches are more landlocked in nature. The building will go from being roughly 8,500 square feet in size to a little over 17,000 square feet.
Taube said architects designing the library were aiming to make it feel spacious and open with a lot of natural light, as well as easy to navigate. There will be a “sea of desks and end tables for people” who want to do work or homework, and plenty of chairs meant to be comfortable so people can lounge after a browse.
Among the features of the renovated library will be a reading/community room, a children’s area, a patio area for outdoor events and three meeting rooms, including one that will have the capacity to hold 100 people.
“That’s important because we’ve never had a meeting room that can hold that many people,” Taube said. “We will be using that for things like the big kickoff for our summer reading events. For three of the seasons when people can get outside, we will be providing access so that they can go outside there and sit outside and enjoy the streetscape and the views without being indoors. That also gives us the opportunity to do things like holding story times outdoors, it gives us the chance to expand our events with things like musicians or music with that outdoor patio.”
A major downside of the previous iteration of the library was limited parking, Taube said. When the project is complete the parking spaces will nearly double from 32 to 60. As well the library system will be moving its technical processing department, which is charged with the purchasing and distribution of materials, to the LaVale branch. So too will the events and programming department be moved. They will also be putting in a loading dock.
“We really shot for the moon on this,” said Taube. “For a great community, we want to build a library that everybody is going to be proud of and everybody can find something of use in.”