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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Main Library Project

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 17, 2017


If you have passed our Main Library building in downtown Steubenville recently, it appears that nothing is happening regarding the planned renovation – and your observation would correct from the outside.


We are in the re-bid process to award the project to a contractor, and like all Ohio local governments we must follow the Ohio Revised Code provisions for awarding contracts for renovation and construction.


The re-bid factor has provided us additional time following the Oct. 27 closing of the Main Library to prepare the building for the upcoming renovation and construction, thus the things you aren’t seeing that are happening.


First, we needed to clear everything from the lower level of the building.


Next we needed to remove everything from the 1963 Annex and the 1948 Garage, both of which will be demolished in the construction plan.


All the books in the children’s area were boxed up and moved to the South Reading Room, which will see no renovation.  The shelving and furniture, all to be reused, were taken to storage.


The administrative offices moved to the North Reading Room, also not impacted by the work on the library.


That cleared the library areas so that preparatory work could begin which was mostly asbestos removal in the form of pre-1960 floor tile which had to be removed to allow construction to begin.


The children’s area had only the original 1902 floor tile beneath the carpeting, but other lower level areas sported 2 layers of tile and sub-floor that had to be scraped away.


Voices echo through the rooms, the first time they have been bare for a long time, with the concrete floor exposed for the first time in 115 years.


Sorry, no long-lost items except for a found nickel only 5 years old in a carpet corner.


A section of ductwork had to be removed from the flat roof in the rear to meet regulations.


Outside the work to relocate utilities necessary for building construction is nearly finished and was far more complex than I anticipated.


I also learned more about telephone service, electrical service, cable systems, and the Internet than I ever imagined existed.


These things all have to be ready before any construction begins, and must be arranged by the owner, not the contractor doing the actual work.


And why in 1950 a major telephone cable was place “over” the building still baffles me; but either way it had to be moved.


Of course, joining a 1902 building with a 2018 building led to many issues that a brand new building would not, but I still feel it will be worth the work involved and everyone will like the end product someday.


The 2018 building will not be a “copy” of the 1902 building; rather it will be architecturally-sensitive to the Carnegie Building with steep roofs and stone on the lower level and brick on the upper level.


The purpose of historic preservation is to enhance the old with the new, and make it clear which building is which.


The rear wall of the Carnegie Building, which has been covered by the Bookmobile garage since 1948 will again be exposed.  The same is true for another wall which will be exposed along an interior stairway.


The construction has pointed out how all 7 of our library buildings work together to provide library service to Jefferson County, and closure of one impacts the whole system.


Tasks have been shuffled around and reassigned and deliveries have been modified to keep everything moving.


And we need to keep focused on the major-task-in-hand, which is to make the Main Library ADA accessible so that everyone can get into the library who wants to use it.


The grand Roman stairway to government buildings that were common for centuries will come to an end at the library, yet will remain for all to enjoy in a more practical way.