by James Hill, Library Director
Chillicothe & Ross County Public Library prides itself on creating welcoming and safe spaces for everyone. Although current COVID guidelines make it challenging, we’re looking to the future. CRCPL currently has several construction projects underway.
If you’ve traveled Paint Street, you’ve noticed that we’re getting a new parking lot at the Main library. The improvements should be done by mid-November. For some quick background, the building that we call the Annex, directly behind Main, was built in the 1970s as Central School. It was the third building in that general area called Central. Remnants of the older schools can still be found under the large parking lot (like a handful of Puritan bricks made in Hamden, Ohio, that were churned up during excavation). There hadn’t been significant structural work done to the lot for several years. Deep voids and failing drainage pipes under the pavement caused potholes and even a handful of recent sink holes.
Since we knew the parking lot would have to be excavated to address those structural issues, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and create a safer and more attractive space, too. Without losing parking spots, we were able to add several landscaping islands that will give us plenty of room for new shade trees while forcing traffic to slow down. Previously the blacktop extended all the way to the edge of the buildings, which didn’t feel safe for children. The new parking lot features elevated sidewalks (that also act as parking blocks) and new ramps, making it much easier for everyone to traverse the area.
Meanwhile, inside the Annex building, we’ve undertaken an HVAC improvement project. Central School was built with very few interior walls—open classrooms were very popular in the late 1960s through the 70s. When the library took over the space, we added walls to create meeting rooms and offices. The heating and cooling was adapted many times to force a system built for one type of design to work for another. As a result, we were constantly adjusting thermostats to address hot and cold zones. When the large rooftop units started to fail last year (much like the parking lot), we again decided to take advantage of the opportunity to make improvements.
For the past several weeks, the Annex has been undergoing major ductwork replacement. We’re replacing the large outdated heating and cooling units with smaller, more efficient varieties. Although the Annex meeting rooms are still closed to the public (thanks, COVID), when they do re-open, users should notice a considerable difference in ambient comfort.
Those are just some of the things going on. We’re also finally making progress at the new Kingston Library, planning on expanding our maintenance building, and installing new carpet and furniture at Main and Richmond Dale. So, while it’s a slow time in many ways, the library is taking advantage of the situation and making proverbial hay while the sun shines. This pandemic won’t be with us forever and when it’s over, the libraries will be ready to welcome everyone back.