A transformation is taking place in Annville as a long-time community pillar, the Annville Free Library, undergoes a once-in-a-generation expansion and renovation project.
Since the groundbreaking took place in June 2022, plenty has changed at the library, located at 216 E. Main St. – the project is on track for a September grand opening ceremony – while library staff has kept its services in place and mostly undisrupted, save for the occasional construction-related cacophony.
Volunteers like Carolyn Scott and Marty Brandt, who have been staring at the plans for years now, could easily blend in as construction project managers along with the work crews, walking around the site with hardhats donned and pointing out all the little decisions and details that have gone into marrying the extant portions of the library – sections of which are original to the library’s 1950 design, as well as the main floor, which was renovated in 1990 – with a neighboring duplex and a new 3,380-square-foot addition.
Scott, a member of the project’s Vision Team along with Brandt, said that the renovation and expansion has its roots in a 2017 needs assessment of the community, and the related insight that libraries have changed from being primarily depositories for books to community hubs. (Rest assured though, books remain a major focus, and in the duplex renovations, for instance, additional beams have been installed to meet the specific weight-bearing requirements that come along with shelving thousands of titles.)
With a very active children’s program, as well as being frequent host to other community events, space is limited in the current floor plan, and the library found itself needing to turn down requests due to sheer lack of capacity.
The Vision Team heard that the community strongly preferred the library to remain in downtown Annville, within walking distance to the historic Greystone school, today’s Annville Elementary School. So when the neighboring duplex was sold over a couple years in separate parcels, it was an easy decision to snatch them up and secure an expansion path for the library’s future.
The project has three major components:
- Repurposing the neighboring duplex to be used for community rooms
- Constructing a new addition between the duplex and existing library to house the library’s help desk and expanded youth program space
- Renovating the existing library and giving the new, combined building a unified exterior
The master plan for the project was designed by Hickey Architects, which previously designed the Annville Street Scape in the early 2000s.
As is usually the case with architectural plans, words can only go so far in describing the plans. The project team has produced a video showcasing all three components of the project, using 3D renderings of the schematics.
With work expected to be completed this year on the duplex and new addition, a walk around the project site shows some clear signs that – Yes, this is a library! Including the immediately-recognizable library help desk starting to take shape inside the Speedwell-constructed new addition. This expanded help desk will sit in a natural flow location between the library’s new entrances, which will be located on either side of the addition.
The new addition portion of the project is funded in part by a $750,000 state grant received last year.
The entire library will be outfitted with a new sprinkler system and updated security system, as well as high-speed wireless connectivity. Scott noted that the importance of having accessible connectivity was starkly clear during the pandemic, when patrons would come to sit in the parking lot and connect to the wifi.
“We wanted to get ready for 10 years from now, not 5 years ago,” said Brandt. “So we are spending the resources to make sure we have that.”
Scott added that this was one of the pitfalls they heard over and over from librarians when touring other recently-renovated libraries – As soon as they were built, they were immediately out of date.
The Vision Team for the project is led by Brandt, who is the Annville Free Library board president, and Frank Yeager, the board treasurer. Also on the team are Scott, Elizabeth Lingle, Dee Neff, Maria Howe, Carol Hickey, Carol Donten, Nathan Fry, Travis Freed, and Aaron Miller.
Howe, who is the library’s circulation manager, said that patrons are excited the library is staying right where it is.
“They’re excited that they’ll be able to have a nice new entrance coming in, and they’ll be more space to do programs,” said Howe. She added that the additional tutoring space and breakout rooms are also exciting to library users.
Arthur Funk & Sons serves as the contractor adviser and building consultants to the project, as well as the construction company for renovations to the duplex and the existing library.
Speedwell Construction is building the new structure that will connect the duplex and existing library. The floor of the duplex is actually 16 inches lower than the current library and new addition, so a slight ramp will be used to ensure the whole floor remains accessible.
Although the $4.4 million project is well underway, the Writing the Next Chapter capital campaign still has about $500,000 to go. That additional funding will help ensure that the existing library structure can be renovated to finish out the master plan. William and Carol Christ are honorary co-chairs of the campaign. Donation options are viewable here.
“The business community and the people of our community have been generous supporters of the project,” said Brandt. “We are 89% funded for our master plan which will allow us to build this addition and build the community room, and we’re raising the money to finish our renovations in the existing library and in the duplex, or what we call the annex.”
Volunteers are also helping stretch each of those fundraising dollars for the library, by chipping in wherever possible on certain aspects of construction (“whatever is safe to do,” said Scott), as well as helping sell what they could on Facebook Marketplace – items like lathe, windows, doors, and heating and air conditioning systems.
Scott said that given the size of the community, the amount of contributions have been amazing. “Extremely generous,” said Scott.
Brandt said that donors give because they remember what the library did for them when they were young, or for their children or grandchildren.
“We all feel on the board that it’s important to have this,” said Brand. “I remember what the library did for me when I was 8, 9, 10 years old – it opened up the world to us; it let us read things, magazines, newspapers, books, that you didn’t have because you didn’t have internet 40 years ago, 50 years ago.”
Brandt said that experiences like that are why there’s such a strong desire to make the library accessible to youth and children of today.
If you’d like to learn more about the project, you can stop by the library itself to learn more. There is also an extensive project website available at WritingTheNextChapter.org featuring photos, videos, and other information about the project overall as well as updates as construction proceeds.
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