Herrick District Library is asking the community for ideas for main branch renovation

After two-and-a-half decades, Herrick District Library’s flagship building at 300 S. River Ave. is due for plenty of updates and a few exciting improvements.

At its September meeting of the HDL Board of Trustees, the library voted to award a $5.7 million construction and architecture contract to Lakewood Construction for improvements to the main library.

The renovation project will be paid for through the library’s existing operating budget rather than through a bond. The library’s 2016 millage promise was to expand the now renovated North Branch, followed by this renovation of the main library.

Infrastructure upgrades

The majority of the budget will cover infrastructure upgrades. A new roof, doors, floor coverings, and improvements such as family restrooms are on the project list. In order to make necessary structural changes, the library’s main staircase will be moved and replaced.

“The roof has served us well but is now at the end of its life,” says Library Director Diane Kooiker, noting that regular library visitors will be familiar with the building’s leaky roof and the wastebaskets placed under drips during rainstorms. 

An employee-designed aqueduct system has been a stopgap do-it-yourself solution to redirect water above the drop-in ceiling until the renovation could begin.

“It is time for upgrades,” says Kooiker. “Water and books just do not go together.”

Renovation and improvements 

The renovation also provides an opportunity for a few improvements, Kooiker says.

“How people use the library has changed over 25 years. Technology is much more of a library focus now. What could it look like to bring Groundworks upstairs or highlight our technology services in new and different ways?” she says. Groundworks is a community space that provides the tools and technology needed to create new things, advance personal and professional projects, and meet, share, and collaborate with others.

Community members will be invited to offer input and share feedback on renovation concepts this spring. Input will be collected through interactive opportunities inside the library building, through social media and website surveys, and through email communications to library cardholders.

Additional study rooms, a popular offering at HDL, are in the tentative plan. Improvements under consideration based on the budget include adding a mother’s/wellness room, comfortable seating, moving the LEGO Lab and Groundworks to a more visible location on the main level, a possible fireplace element, and an update to the Book Nook, a used book store operated by the Friends of HDL organization.

Improvements are also in the works for the upper level. Research in recent years shows young children learn through play. Early literacy initiatives are a key component of the library’s strategic plan. New imaginative and creative play elements for children will help the library meet goals for early literacy education.

Open during construction

Over the past few months, staff members have prepared for the project while working through the initial phases with Lakewood. Construction is likely to begin mid-summer with a goal to complete the work by the end of 2024.

The building will remain open throughout the multiyear project, allowing library users to continue to access library materials. The library will continue to offer programs during construction, which sometimes may take place at partner organization sites or at the library’s North Branch. 

Parts of the building may be temporarily closed for part of the project while under construction. Meeting rooms will be unavailable to the public to enable library collections to move to those areas when other parts of the library are closed. Watch for signage and communications for information on where to find library materials during construction, but know that your friendly library staff will also be ready and waiting to help users find what they seek with every library visit.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.