Leader Blues

Monday, November 20, 2006

TOP STORY >> Library seen as changing Main St.

IN SHORT: Media center will be dramatically different from other Jacksonville buildings.

Leader staff writer

Described by the designer as being a monumental civic building in a park setting, early sketches of what the new Esther DeWitt Nixon Public Library will look like enticed more than 50 Jacksonville residents out to a public meeting for the $2.5 million structure Wednesday night.

The 13,884-square-foot library will be built along Main Street, across from the Jacksonville Shopping Center and adjacent to Walgreen’s Pharmacy. The 20 foot tall building will be about 40 percent larger than the current library.

There was some disagreement between whether the exterior should be red or beige brick but it will not have a flat roof like many of the other older buildings in downtown Jack-sonville says designer David Sargent of the Witsell, Evans, Rasco architecture firm. “We want people to look at it and know it is a library, so they don’t have to ask what the building is,” Sargent said.

The north side of the building will have a nearby gazebo, benches and a 150-foot covered walkway with pillars. The length of the walkway concerned some residents.

“I have a lot of friends who can’t walk and 150 feet is a long way for them to travel,” said Marilyn Canon of Jacksonville. Canon said she uses the Nixon library two to three times a week.

Sargent said the south entrance would be wheelchair accessible and much closer to handicapped parking spots for patrons who find it difficult to walk.

Inside, library will have a vestibule that separates the general circulation area from a 1,000 square foot multi-purpose room complete with kitchenette and restrooms. The layout allows people to use the multipurpose part of the building then the library itself isn’t open.

With large glass windows on the north side of the building and glass block walls inside, the library will have abundant sunlight without being overheated in the summer.

The building will be lit at night, lights will be left on inside and the outside will be lit with floodlights and other lighting.
There will be 3,204 square foot of general circulation area, 3,500 square foot of bookshelves, 1,200 square foot computer lab and a 1,200 square foot children’s reading area.

One highlight of the building is plans for a walled garden area, accessible from the children’s reading area where youngsters can take their books outside to read.

Cherry furniture, wooden ceiling tiles and cork flooring will make the interior of the build inviting. The entire building will be equipped with high-speed wireless Internet for laptop computer users too.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), said he’d like to landscape the property to make it look more like a park with evergreens on the west side and oaks or similar trees on the north side along Main Street.

“I think it’s important the landscaping is done correctly. Hopefully the building style and landscaping could set a trend and spread throughout the city,” Roberts said.

CALS would maintain the landscaping he added.

“This will be second largest library in CALS,” Roberts said.

The current building the Nixon library calls home was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System.

Along with being old, the Nixon library is small with 9,265 square feet. The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central CALS building is five-years-old and has about 14,000 square feet.

In 2004, the Nixon library was closed for a month while a leak in the roof was repaired. About 200 books were damaged from the leaking roof. Several computers got wet as water leaked heavily through the roof to the building’s interior, about 40 ceiling tiles were damaged to the point of breaking and falling to the library floor. Workers cleaned the tiles and used a shop vacuum for about six hours to remove flooding water from the floor.

The drainage system failed when one of the roof drains got plugged, and instead of backing up onto the roof, the rainwater soaked into the ceiling until water leaked through.

During the closure, workers removed asbestos insulation from a 950-square-foot area above the circulation desk. The Nixon library still has asbestos materials in 488-square-feet of floor tile in the back room where the librarians work, in 30 segments of pipe insulation and in 200 foot of caulking between the building’s exterior and window units.

The next public meeting for the library will be in early spring Sargent said.