July 2, 2008 Edition

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Library preparing for move

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Library has experienced an increase in usage lately, making its upcoming move to a new location all the more important to library personnel and patrons. "We have about 250 people walking in our doors every day now, compared with the 150 we had just a short time ago," Library Director Ashley Burris said. "We anticipate being able to meet the increasing needs with the move to this larger space, plus have actual seating."

The library has progressed from a humble beginning in February 1942 when it had only 3,465 books on record that first year. The volumes the library presently own numbers over 35,000. Annual circulation for the past year is estimated at 70,000 in Walnut Ridge alone.

"People don't realize that we don't have the space now to display all the collections that we have," Burris said.

The new Lawrence County Library will double square footage from the 3,500 square feet in its present location to 7,000 square feet. There will be a new snack bar area with seating, a gallery space to display local art and office space, in addition to the expanded space to display the present adult's and children's books, magazines and videos. There is another 7,000 square feet upstairs earmarked for library expansion that is unused at the present time.

The 25-year agreement between the library and Lawrence County provides for an exchange of building spaces. Lawrence County will use the present library located at 1315 West Main Street in Walnut Ridge as an additional courtroom. The county library will move to the former Hutcherson building with the main entrance located off Walnut Street.

Burris said she had investigated purchasing this space when it was listed with a realtor, but combined purchase price and utilities were out of budget. The present agreement is affordable because the library will only pay utilities for one-fourth of the building. The library will also be paying for the upgrade costs, but will have no rent or mortgage.

"The biggest part of this project has been construction of the bathrooms to meet codes," said Burris.

The location of the bathrooms has been designed to allow access by those utilizing the meeting rooms after library hours without library access.

The next steps include painting, flooring, adjustments on the heating and air-conditioning system and insulation. Coating the windows with UV protection is also being investigated.

"We want to pay for costs up front if possible, rather than in utility bills every month," said Burris. "We are looking at this long term."

Burris said that several individuals have combined efforts to help the project progress. Among others, Milton Smith, president of First National Bank in Walnut Ridge, offered parking space available off Walnut Street; Lloyd Goodman used his engineering knowledge to advise Burris on utility cost feasibility; and Jerry Brackett, from Brackett-Krennerich and Associates in Jonesboro, helped design a building plan that took into account what would have to be done to meet codes.

"It has truly been a great community effort," Burris said. "So many people have pitched in to help."

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