New bathroom facilities are coming to the Lebanon Community Library.

The library, at 125 N. 7th Street, was one of 17 in the commonwealth to receive funding last month in a $4.5 million round through the Keystone Grants for Public Library Facilities program, which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Commonwealth Libraries.

Lebanon Community Library will receive $68,500, half of the funds required for the $137,000 renovation. The library is planning to pay for its half of the project costs out of its investment account, but library executive director Michelle Hawk said that if any individuals or organizations are interested in being a part of this project, the library would love to hear from them.

The library’s current outdated and non-handicap-accessible restrooms will be upgraded to provide access to individuals with disabilities, as well as add new family/gender-neutral restrooms, according to the grant application. The main goal of the project is to achieve ADA accessibility, which the library does not currently have.

The library’s application was submitted along with letters of support from state Rep. John Schlegel and state Sen. Chris Gebhard. It also received support from Lebanon City Council, which voted on Oct. 23, 2023, to authorize the grant application.

“We anticipate that this improvement to our facilities will improve the overall appearance and reputation of our library, welcoming new users and maintaining the patronage of our existing users,” Hawk said in the application. “We also anticipate lower water bills with updated, more efficient commodes and sinks LED lighting will result in lower electricity costs.”

Library users will be more comfortable using the library, knowing that restrooms that meet their needs are available for their use, whether they require handicap-accessible restrooms, family restrooms, or gender-neutral restrooms. The barrier of inaccessible restrooms will no longer prevent users from visiting the library for long periods of time or attending programming of a length that may require a visit to the restroom. Gender-neutral bathrooms will assure all patrons that they are welcome and have a place at our library.

Grant application

A proposal for the project was put together by Woodland Contractors and submitted with the grant application. The project is currently planned to begin in September with a seven-week phase one that will see an existing kitchenette and janitor’s closet reconstructed to create two new family restrooms, followed by a six-week phase two that will see the existing restrooms renovated to be accessible and outfitted with new finishes and fixtures.

Hawk said that the library is hopeful that this timeframe will be realized, but that depends partly on how quickly the contract is executed and bid specifications are approved by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. She noted that supply chain issues could also affect the timeline.

“The Keystone Grant requires the project be completed by September 30, 2025, and we’re planning to do the work around the Summer Learning Program so it doesn’t interfere with our busiest time of year,” said Hawk.

The current men’s room at Lebanon Community Library. (Grant application)

The phasing of the project will allow library users to access the new family restrooms while the existing restrooms are being renovated.

“While the upgrades will bring the restrooms up to existing ADA requirements, making them handicap assessable, two additional family restrooms will be added to the library, providing a space for families with young children needing assistance or supervision,” Schlegel said in his letter of support for the project.

According to the grant application, this project need was identified from patron concerns about accessibility, family restroom needs, and odor complaints. (Neither restroom has functioning exhaust fans.)

Hawk noted in her letter about the project that the bathrooms have not been substantially updated since the library was built in 1985.

“The renovation of the Lebanon Community Library bathrooms is more than a cosmetic upgrade, it’s an investment in the health, comfort, and dignity of the thousands of community members that visit the library annually,” Gebhard said in his letter of support.

“Pennsylvania’s libraries provide critical resources and services to the residents of their communities, and this funding will enable them to continue those efforts in state-of-the-art spaces,” said state Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin in a press release.

“By investing in our libraries, we are investing in the health of our towns and cities and all of the people who call them home.”

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.

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