Library expansion progressing: Grand opening could come sometime this summer

Posted: Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Since breaking ground on their expansion project on May 3 of last year, the Kenai Community Library has been awash in the sights and sounds of conventional construction: the intermittent buzzing and clanking of power tools, men in hardhats and work boots, that pervasive smell of dust and sweat and freshly cut wood.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Chris True caulks siding on the front of the Kenai library Tuesday morning. Workers have made significant progress on the facility's expansion.

But if the construction completed thus far is any indicator, the new Kenai Library is going to be anything but conventional.

The new addition is already sporting its colors: a subdued turquoise for the main wall paired with a surprisingly bold shade of lemon-lime for the indented, enclosed nooks that appeal to the more reclusive of library-goers.

Library director Mary Jo Joiner knows that not everyone is going to cotton to this modern styling.

"That color is kind of funky," she says, obviously not referring to the turquoise, "but it actually opens up those spaces."

"Not everyone's going to like it," added Kelly Keating, the owner of the company in charge of the construction project. "It's just like art. We don't all want T-111 brown buildings. We want stuff that makes statements."

The new bathrooms and their surrounding vestibule also demonstrate the library's leaning toward a more contemporary design: elongated tiny glass tiles of the light blue/green/gray variety spill down the entire wall, a phenomenon Joiner likens to a waterfall.

Many of the partitions in the new library are also made of glass, which, paired with the high ceilings and lighter colors, lend the building a very open, airy feel.

Joiner reports that in addition to the painting and installation of tile, almost all of the electrical work has been completed. Sadly this involved turning the staff's break quarters into what now resembles a dingy boiler room, but they are managing.

The addition and existing library have also both seen a complete re-roofing, and beautiful tongue-and-groove ceiling panels fashioned from polished maple are now being installed.

"There's lots of nice, subtle architectural details that all come together and really make this a unique project," Keating said, referring to the splashes of casework, wood finishes, and interesting lighting techniques drawn up by ECI/Hyer, the Anchorage-based architectural firm responsible for the building's design.

As far as Joiner and Keating are concerned, the construction process is chugging along as smoothly as anyone could expect.

"So far we've been lucky," Joiner said. "No big surprises. I don't think there's anything that's really delayed construction. They were running ahead of schedule for a long time."

Next up on said schedule is carpeting the concrete floor of the addition, a goal slated to be achieved within the next couple weeks. Once that is done, virtually everything from the existing library will be moved into this newly carpeted area so renovation can begin.

Joiner hopes this "total chaos" of shifting everything will begin in mid-February. It's an undertaking of epic proportions that will close the library for approximately three weeks.

The bigger question, of course, is when the entire project will be done. As construction is such an unpredictable process, Joiner is hesitant to commit to a season, let alone a month, but says that the grand opening should be some time this coming summer.

"It depends on what happens when they get in this existing building," she said, "because anybody who's done construction knows there could be surprises."

Karen Garcia can be reached at

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