The Lakeland Public Library’s main branch 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 following in May.

The library’s main public area will soon show off new lighting fixtures and updated flooring and a new HVAC system as part of a year-long remodeling project. Until then, it’s still a hard hat zone with final touches to be completed.

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

Lakeland library renovation
A view of the space for books and shelving in the renovated main section of the library. Lake Morton is seen from the picture windows. | Kevin Cook | City of Lakeland

Two other sections — phase 2 for children and youth and the new Lakeland History and Culture Center — are undergoing construction and are projected to open in May.

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

The total area for phase 1 renovations is just over 23,000 square feet within the entire library building of 39,174 square feet.

Along with lighting and flooring, there are new ceiling panels, paint, HVAC system and ductwork. In addition, construction of the Lakeland History and Culture Center, approximately 1,400 square feet, has been underway inside the main library.

Project architect is Straughn Trout of Lakeland, and the $1.89 million construction contract was awarded to EnviroBuild LLC of Tampa.

A punch list walkthough took place last week and contractors will next complete deficiencies identified in the walkthrough.

Once the contractor finishes any touch-up items for phase 1, Lilyquist said, the library will close for a few weeks while the collection, shelving and furniture are returned.

For the past year the public has entered and exited the library through the meeting/community room off the lobby with access to to the children’s room, the bestseller collection, reserve pickups, checkout and returns. The locations for these services change as remodeling gets underway for phase 2.

“The spaces in phase 2 will affect a portion of the lobby, the meeting room, youth services and teen room spaces.  These will be closed off from the public,” Lilyquist said. “We will set up a small collection of children’s and teen materials in the Main Library while phase 2 construction takes place. “

This children’s and teen area, temporarily labeled Youth and located in the southwest corner of the library, will also have computers and seating. Staff will have a desk in that area to assist.

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

Construction work includes the same remodeling items as in phase 1 with the additional construction of an ADA-standard restroom for people with disabilities that will be accessible off the lobby.

For those who need meeting spaces, the library is continuing its restriction for a large group meeting space. However, Lilyquist said, staff will open the training room, seating six to eight people, and four tutor rooms which seat two people per room.

A view of the History and Culture Center last week looking out toward the space for the library’s main book shelving and Lake Morton.

The Lakeland History and Culture Center, which has separate funding, will feature an exhibit area, spaces for historical and genealogical searches and donated items.

“The history center will highlight many stories connecting one community,” former Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields told city commissioners during a workshop Friday. Fields is a member of the history center’s advisory committee and fundraising chair.

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

Lou Ann Mims, head of Special Collections for the center, has been interviewing people and the plan is for audio history to be part of the center experience.

Fields said the committee wanted to do a thoughtful job with the exhibit and set a foundation for the years to follow.

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

  • City public improvement funding: $280,663.00, out of $300,000 appropriated
  • In-kind from Friends of the Library for furnishings: $35,000.00
  • In-kind for design fees by the Serena Bailey Foundation: $98,000.00
  • Community fund-raising: $193,193 as of Feb. 14. (Goal is $200,000, increased from an earlier target of $150,000)

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

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

Video: Former Mayor Gow Fields gives an update on the Lakeland History and Culture Center

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

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