Library’s Main Branch Reopens Tuesday; History Center Launches a Few Weeks Later

It is move-in weekend for the Lakeland Public Library’s main branch along the east shore of Lake Morton. The 56-year-old facility has been undergoing a massive $1.89 million renovation for the last 18 months, including a new HVAC system, ceilings, lighting, flooring, paint, furniture, a new collection layout — and the addition of the Exhibit Room for the History and Culture Center. 

The entire library is currently closed leading up to Tuesday’s reopening. Since Monday, crews have been moving collections, furniture, and equipment to ensure the library is set and ready to go on Sept. 6.  The book drop will remain open for returns during the closure period.  The Larry R. Jackson Branch Library and the eLibrary will be open normal hours that week.

“We are very excited to serve our many customers in this new space and we will soon have our History and Culture Center open for the public as well,” City Librarian Lisa Lilyquist said in a news release. “The project took a little longer than expected, but the finished product will be worth the wait.”

The total area for the Phase 1 renovations is just over 23,000 square feet within the entire library building of 39,174 square feet. The project architect is Straughn Trout of Lakeland, and the construction contract was awarded to EnviroBuild LLC of Tampa.

Lilyquist and LuAnn Mims, the library’s special collections director, said it will still be a few more weeks before the new History and Culture Center will debut, but the history room, where patrons can research local history, will open on Tuesday. Trained staff assists visitors in their search for Lakeland history and genealogical inquiries. 

The unique collection of materials in the history room includes yearbooks, directories, maps, genealogical materials, old property plans, artifacts, photographs and personal materials from local leaders and pioneers. There is even a DIY digitize space for visitors to reformat older analog materials like video tapes, cassette tapes and photographs into newer digital formats.

The Lakeland History and Culture Center has separate funding and will feature an exhibit area, spaces for historical and genealogical searches and donated items. The opening exhibit will feature photographs and displays of Lakeland and its founders from 1880 to 1925.

The library receives a delivery of equipment on Thursday.

Mims has also been interviewing people and the plan is for an audio history to be part of the center experience.

A breakdown of the costs for the new History and Culture Center:

  • City public improvement funding: $280,663.00, out of $300,000 appropriated
  • In-kind from Friends of the Library for furnishings: $35,000
  • In-kind for design fees by the Serena Bailey Foundation: $98,000
  • And community fund-raising: around $200,000.

Donations for the history center are being accepted through a fund at the GiveWell foundation (select City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation/LHCC Fund).

But the hammering won’t end Monday. Phase Two of the Main Library construction is slated to start in late September and will close the youth services area and the meeting room for major renovations.  Phase Two is scheduled to take approximately three months to complete and will include replacement of the HVAC system in the youth services and meeting room spaces, the addition of an ADA single stall restroom off the lobby, new ceiling, lighting, flooring, paint, and some furniture updates.

Visit https://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/library/locations-hours for a complete listing of locations and hours for city of Lakeland library services.

Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native.  She can be reached at [email protected] or 863-272-9250.