Construction on schedule for Kent Free Library

Katie Hilbert

This fall, students will have a new study spot – a study spot that will be 55,000 square feet and will come with a price tag of about $13.5 million.

The new building for the Kent Free Library is set to open its doors in late summer or early fall, said Wendy Bartlett, the assistant director of the Kent Free Library.

The project was funded primarily by a 1.9-mill bond issue that was passed in November 2003, library capital project funds, the Kent Free Library Foundation and community donors, Director Carmen Celigoj said.

When the new library opens, Celigoj said she anticipates utility costs to be higher because the new building is larger than the old one. She also said more staff members will need to be hired. But she said some of these cost increases will be offset by savings from energy efficiency. She said it is hoped that the rest of the added costs will be paid for using the library’s general operating budget.

The construction has been going smoothly, Celigoj said, adding that the weather has been “wonderful,” and the project has been progressing quickly. Thomarios, located in Akron, is the construction company completing the project.

The new library will be 37,000 square feet larger than the old library, which was 18,000 square feet.

The library made several additions over the last several decades, Bartlett said.

“It simply was way, way, way too little space for the collections and the amount of use,” she said of the space the old library had to offer.

More space is not the only addition to the library.

“It’s going to be a hot spot – it’s going to be wireless – so people can bring their laptops in and whip them open and go to town,” Bartlett said.

She also said the library will have a drive-through.

“People can hop down and not have to worry about parking and going in and all that kind of stuff,” she said.

The library also will have a parking garage underneath, which will mean “tons more parking than before,” she said.

The other “big, big thing,” she said the library will have is 36 computers, compared to the seven the library has now.

“Actually, six, one just died,” she said.

Bartlett also said the Carnegie section, which is the historic section of the library, will be preserved and used as a genealogy and local history room. The library will have a larger public meeting room than it had before, and, eventually, it will have a caf‚.

“I think we’ll get moved in, and once the dust is settled, they’ll say, ‘OK,'” she said of opening up the caf‚. “That piece will come a little bit later.”

The Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna recently moved into its newly renovated home at 167 E. Main St. The library opened to the public Jan. 17.

The library began construction in June 2004, and director Phyllis Cettomai said they still aren’t quite finished with everything, even though the library is open.

So far, patrons have said they love the newly renovated library, she said.

“My gut reaction is that they’re very impressed,” she said. “We’ve been checking circulation every day, and it’s way up.”

Time will tell if the Kent Free Library will see a similar outcome when it welcomes the public into its renovated space. Bartlett is both enthusiastic and optimistic.

“It will be nice for students,” she said. “I mean, they can come in and use their laptops and get a cup of coffee and study.”

Contact public affairs reporter Katie Hilbert at [email protected]