On the morning of June 18, the Annville Free Library ceremonially broke ground on an addition to its existing building.

The 3,400-square-foot addition to the library, at 216 East Main St., will be built on a grass lot near the library’s parking lot.

Hickey Architects in Mount Gretna developed the design for the addition, which includes a reading patio, ADA entrance, circulation and help desk, larger youth area, ADA main-floor restrooms, stairwell to the lower level, and more natural lighting.

For the ceremony, the floor plan of the addition was marked with signs and painted lines. Red lines identified the outer structure of the addition, and white lines identified the inner uses.

Part of the floor plan for the addition, including the reading patio and the rain garden, as marked for the ceremony. (Provided by Lexi Gonzalez)

Also as part of the project being funded by the Writing the Next Chapter capital campaign, the Annville Free Library will adapt its use of a duplex building it owns in the Annville Historic district. The duplex’s first floor will be converted into a community room.

A peek inside the duplex, which is currently under renovation. (Provided by Jeremy Long)

The campaign also strives to fund a renovation to its existing library building. This would involve renovating the children’s library, storytime area, and the bookstore, and adding a creativity center, study/tutor rooms, rolling bookshelves, and wall monitors.

Carol and William “Bill” Christ, honorary co-chairs, and Martin “Marty” Brandt and Frank Yeager, library board members and campaign co-chairs, led the campaign.

As of Saturday, the campaign had reached about 70 percent of its goal, or roughly $3 million of its $4 million goal.

A $750,000 Keystone Grant from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education, largely made this possible. The funds were provided by the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund.

Once-in-a-Generation Expansion Project signage beside construction equipment. (Provided by Jeremy Long)

The funds that have already been raised will be able to cover the cost of the addition and the renovation of the duplex. The funds that still must be raised will cover the cost of the renovation of the existing library building.

During the ceremony, Christ shared his wife Carol’s personal connection to the Annville Free Library from being hired as a teenager to earning her master’s degree in library science to running the children’s library.

Brandt, who is also the Annville Free Library board president, and Yeager recognized those who donated to and developed the project.

Brandt and Yeager also accepted a congratulatory certificate from state representatives Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan as well as a $5,000 check from Kiwanis of Annville-Cleona.

Behind the ceremony

According to Yeager, the project began back in January 2017 when board members got together and asked themselves what the future had in store for the Annville Free Library.

This question led to a lengthy process of understanding what the library was and what was happening in libraries nationwide. Board members visited six area libraries to observe what was working for them and what was not.

The library then received initial estimates for the project from Arthur Funk & Sons in Lebanon. Labor and supply shortages stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and the expected surprises that accompany construction projects increased costs by roughly $1 million.

Board members then had to decide where the addition would be constructed. Due to the limited available space in Annville and the guidelines for the use of that space by the Annville Historic district, they had to get creative.

“So, then we had to work with the Friends of Old Annville and the Historical Architectural Review Board, HARB for short, because they had to approve the plans,” Yeager said. “And our architect was able to come up with a plan that integrated three buildings — the new addition, the old family home or duplex, plus the existing library.”

Board members then had to figure out how the project would be funded. While the project costs increased from the initial estimates, the library saved money where it could.

“The other thing I’m really proud of is how much work that our volunteers have done,” Yeager said. “It’s saved … tens of thousands of dollars, at least, in terms of cost-savings. By demoing out that building, we didn’t have to pay anybody to do it.”

And along the way, there has been no shortage of surprises.

Yeager said, “Marty, who has had construction experience from the past, said, ‘There’s gonna be lots of things we didn’t plan on.’ He said, ‘We hope maybe only one or two major ones.’ And I think we had three or four by now.”

One of these major things was that the foundation of the existing library building needed to be almost completely redone to bring it up to current library standards. Another unexpected expense was that a meter pit needed to be installed by a water company to make the entire library building sprinklered.

“When you rehab a historic building, it’s costly,” Yeager said. “It just is costly.”

Looking to the future, the actual groundbreaking on the addition will take place this August. Yeager projected the addition and renovation of the duplex will be completed and a grand opening will be held during the fall of 2023.

“Hopefully, we can get enough money in the next couple years that we can cover [the renovation on the existing library building],” Yeager said. The library is currently working with Diamond on a grant that would provide funding for this renovation.

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.