Library renovations will begin soon, followed by the opening of the History and Culture Center

The main branch of the Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton is preparing to open its renovated adult section to the public in a few weeks, with the new history and culture center and a renovated children’s section in May.

The library’s main public space will soon feature new light fixtures, updated flooring, and a new HVAC system as part of a year-long renovation project. Until then, it’s still a helmet area with final touches to complete.

The adult services area is Phase 1 of a two-phase construction schedule that began February 22, 2021 at the 36-year-old facility located just east of Lake Morton.

Lakeland Library Renovation
Kevin Cook | Town of Lakeland A view of the space for books and shelves in the renovated main section of the library. Lake Morton is seen from the bay windows.

Two more sections – Phase 2 for children and youth and the new Lakeland History and Culture Center – are under construction and are expected to open in May.

City Librarian Lisa Lilyquist said library staff were hopeful but cautious about the exact opening date for Phase 1: “We plan to open to the public in March – hopefully sooner, but I can’t be sure.”

The total square footage of the Phase 1 renovations is just over 23,000 square feet across the entire 39,174 square foot library building.

In addition to lighting and flooring, there are new ceiling panels, paint, HVAC and ductwork. Additionally, construction of the approximately 1,400 square foot Lakeland History and Culture Center is underway inside the main library.

The architect for the project is Straughn Trout of Lakeland, and the $1.89 million construction contract has been awarded to EnviroBuild LLC of Tampa.

A review of the checklist took place last week and contractors will then need to fill in the gaps identified in the review.

Once the contractor completes touch-ups for Phase 1, Lilyquist said, the library will close for a few weeks while the collection, shelving and furniture are returned.

Over the past year, the public has entered and exited the library through the meeting/community room off the lobby with access to the children’s room, bestseller collection, reserved pick-ups, at checkout and returns. The locations of these services are changing as the remodeling is underway for Phase 2.

“The spaces in phase 2 will concern part of the entrance hall, the meeting room, the youth services and the teen spaces. These will be closed to the public,” Lilyquist said. “We will be setting up a small collection of materials for children and adolescents in the main library during the construction of phase 2.”

This space for children and teenagers, temporarily labeled Youth and located in the southwest corner of the library, will also have computers and seats. Staff will have an office in this area to assist you.

“Phase 2 should take at least three months,” Lilyquist said. “Fingers crossed that this timeline holds up.”

The construction work includes the same renovation elements as in Phase 1 with the additional construction of an ADA-compliant restroom for the disabled that will be accessible from the lobby.

For those in need of meeting spaces, the library continues its restriction for large group meeting space. However, Lilyquist said, staff will open the training room, which can accommodate six to eight people, and four tutorial rooms that can accommodate two people per room.

A view of the History and Culture Center last week looking towards the main library shelf space and Lake Morton.

The separately funded Lakeland History and Culture Center will include an exhibit area, spaces for historical and genealogical research, and donated artifacts.

“The story center will bring to light many stories connecting a community,” former Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields told city commissioners at a workshop on Friday. Fields is a member of the History Center’s Advisory Board and Chair of Fundraising.

“The opening exhibit will feature the city’s years from 1880 to 1925,” he said. (The town of Lakeland was incorporated in 1885).

Lou Ann Mims, head of special collections for the center, has interviewed people and the plan is for the audio story to be part of the center experience.

Fields said the committee wanted to do thoughtful work with the exhibit and lay the groundwork for years to come.

A breakdown of the history center costs from the city and Fields report:

  • Funding for City Public Improvements: $280,663.00, of $300,000 allocated
  • In-kind from Friends of the Library for furnishings: $35,000.00
  • In-kind design fees by the Serena Bailey Foundation: $98,000.00
  • Community fundraiser: $193,193 as of February 14. (Goal is $250,000)

Fields said Lakeland Electric is sponsoring a donor reception and brief program on May 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. Among the refreshments: a 6-foot cake in the shape of a Publix water tower, courtesy of Publix Super Markets.

Donations for the History Center are accepted through a GiveWell Foundation fund (select City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation/LHCC Fund). Those who donate $500 or more by March 31 will be recognized on a donor wall at the history center.

Video: Former Mayor Gow Fields provides update on Lakeland History and Culture Center

Spanish American War Monument Update and Lakeland Culture Center Update – February 18, 2022 from the City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

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