House of books will get a new look

January 11, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

Martinsburg, W.Va. - From the floor, where the tan carpet will be swapped for green, to nearly the ceiling, where study cubicles will overlook shelves of books, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library will get a $574,000 facelift starting next week.

Expected to take six months, the renovation project is designed to help patrons and employees better use the library, which has not had a significant renovation since an addition was built in the late 1970s, said Director Pamela Coyle.

The original building opened in 1968.

As part of the project, large-print books will be moved to a prominent spot in the library, rather than tucked away under a set of stairs. Videos, DVDs and books-on-tape will be grouped in one area, rather than scattered around the building.


All reference books will be moved to the quieter top floor, along with a copier and microfilm machines.

The biggest price tag will be attached to a larger, handicapped-accessible elevator to be built in the back of the building.

"If you've ever been in the (current) elevator, you know it's tiny," Coyle said.

A downside to adding the elevator is that it will take up one of the library's few parking spaces. Nothing is definite, but Coyle said she hopes that when the county moves its offices into a nearby former outlet mall, the library can acquire a neighboring building and its parking lot.

Other plans include taking the library's 12 computers, now spread out on the first floor, and putting them in a new room. A new circulation desk will be built and a larger break room will be available for the library's 26 employees, who now cram into an approximately 9-by-12 foot room.

All of the work will be paid for using a bequest made by a woman who left $500,000 to the library. Management of the fund since the bequest allows for the additional $74,000, Coyle said.

Fund raising will be done to help replenish the account, Coyle said.

On Friday, a contract was signed between library officials and Martinsburg-based Minghini's General Contractors, the company that will do the work.

Because of construction, on some days the library will be nosier than usual and occasionally it will be closed.

Coyle encouraged patrons to visit the library's Web site ( on days the library is closed. Anyone who wants a book can call and ask that it be sent to one of the library's three branches in Falling Waters, Hedgesville and inside Musselman High School in Inwood.

Those who use the library to tutor, teach English as a Second Language courses or adult literacy courses will find the library's top floor geared to their needs.

A separate area will be designated for use by those working on their GEDs and study carousels will be built. Such cubicles previously were in alcoves that overlook the main floor but they were removed after some people used them as a spot from which to throw items at others below, Coyle said.

Plexiglas will be installed to prevent that and soundproof side walls will be in place.

On the bottom floor, the children's library space will not be ignored. A new space will be added for story time or classes and a new circulation desk will be installed there.

Even the fish and George Washington were taken into account.

Live fish in an aquarium will go "on vacation" during construction and Coyle said two historic paintings that depict George Washington have been moved into museums. One now hangs in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Construction is scheduled to begin Jan. 19.

"It's easier for the staff, it's easier for the patrons, it's easier for everybody. I think it will make it a much better library," Coyle said of the project's end result. "I think we're going to look at this afterward and say, 'Why didn't we do this earlier?' At least that's what I'm hoping.

"I'm just anxious to get started," she said.

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