The project to give a new face to the Waynesboro Public Library has been scaled back significantly, but with some community libraries facing cuts to the hours of operation and other communities having to consider closing their community libraries altogether, Waynesboro is “fortunate” to be in the position that it is in, library director Zahir Mahmoud said Tuesday.
“We are fortunate that we will be able to undertake this project and improve the service that we offer to the community,” said Mahmoud, who is putting the finishing touches on plans for a $1.6 million renovation of the 600 S. Wayne Ave. facility that is expected to get going with construction in November.
Waynesboro City Council voted in August to appropriate an additional $400,000 to the $1.2 million that had already been allocated toward the project, which will feature a new local history room, staff lounge and Internet cafe on the ground floor, with those two library offerings moving from the current main floor then opening up the main floor to expanded children’s and adult literature sections.
The project has been in the works since 2005, when plans were drawn up to add 4,000 square feet to the library at an estimated $2 million price tag. The plans had to be scaled back as the project price tag ballooned and the economy retracted and city revenues began to dwindle in 2008 and 2009.
The construction work getting under way in November will focus on the ground floor at the outset. The Internet cafe will be the highlight. The current Internet area is located upstairs near the entrance and checkout desk area, but the space is cramped and can’t accommodate the growing number of people who bring their own laptops in.
“Increasingly, we see people coming in groups of two or three who want to sit at a table with their laptops and meet and have a conversation,” Mahmoud said. “We want to be able to accommodate them, but the space that we have right now is limited.”
That could be said for the library as a whole. The move of the Internet cafe, local history room and staff area downstairs will allow for better utilization of space across the board.
“And that is important as usage of the library continues on an upward trend,” Mahmoud said, citing higher numbers in visits and circulation dating to the start of the recession in 2008.
Construction is expected to take 6-12 months to complete, Mahmoud said.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].