The Soldotna Library is renovating and expanding for the second time in less than two years. The city chose materials for the building’s expansion that are aesthetically pleasing as well as durable, said G and S President Dan Green, the contractor handling the construction.
“(The library) is going to be a showpiece, a quality building for Soldotna,” Green said. “A lot of the materials are very nice; they’re not in the ordinary.”
The building’s siding is a European product. The composite wood — a comparable material would be the wood-plastic composites used for outdoor decks — holds up better than traditional materials. Other durable aspects of the library’s renovations include stones on its exterior and high-quality paneling over its concrete base.
Construction is about half complete. The upgrades are characteristic of the city’s desire to continue the library’s legacy. The staff is eager to move to the improved building but will have to wait until the fall.
G and S construction is about 45 percent complete with the expansion. Workers are finishing the roof and exterior framing. There’s also been some mechanical work completed, Green said.
The main floor of the current building is about 7,500 square feet. The expansion will add about 9,800 square feet, more than doubling its size.
The Soldotna City Council granted the $4.5 million library expansion contract to G and S construction in May 2012. The company handled another expansion of the library, and they’ve worked on numerous projects on the Central Peninsula.
In 1962, the Alaska Legislature approved an appeal to incorporate a library in Soldotna. Shortly thereafter, the city housed the first library in a room of an old clinic; volunteers operated the small endeavor. Upon Joyce Carver’s death, the first president of the library board, a memorial fund was established for a new library. Two local doctors donated land, and the building was constructed from 1967 to 1972.
Expansions followed in 1977 and 1990. In 2005, a group formed to incorporate the library as a nonprofit.
The library board and community members met in August 2008 to discuss the library’s future. They identified issues limiting its services like a small entrance that did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; lack of seating, tables and Internet stations; and no acoustical separation from the kids’ area.
When Soldotna’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the “Envision Soldotna 2030” comprehensive plan in November 2010, it included a section dedicated to arts, education and culture. The plan listed the library as an important asset to the community and a central public facility worth supporting. The expansion of the library is listed as “high priority” in the plan.
The newest construction phase was set to begin by June 2012, but a lead and asbestos assessment of the library postponed the projects. Workers spent about six weeks clearing old portions of the building of both those harmful materials.
The abatement of the materials was the only significant setback experienced thus far, Green said. The weather, however, has affected construction. This winter’s earlier-than-usual cold snap prompted extra work, he said.
“There were some things we wouldn’t have had to deal with if it hadn’t gotten as cold as early as it did.
“And the rain has been a problem, but it’s all part of the game. It’s been an unusual event over the last couple days,” Green said, referring to the mid-January downpour that caused multiple vehicle accidents and prompted the closure of schools across the Kenai Peninsula.
The company has made no significant changes to the initial design of the renovations. The project is scheduled for completion by late summer 2013.
One-fourth of the library’s collection was relocated to a new location at the Peninsula Center Mall. Managing the temporary library has gone smoothly, as its central location is visible to the public, said head librarian Terri Burdick.
“I thinks that’s obvious,” Burdick said with a laugh when asked what staff was looking forward to most about the renovations. “Space.”
The temporary library is about 2,000 square feet. Additional books are stored in the permanent library’s basement, and every week the staff gathers requested books and brings them to the mall. Also, the library is unable to take donations currently.
Burdick added that more windows are another nice addition to the renovated library; the old main floor only had two.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at email@example.com.