CLARKSVILLE — Construction is expected to begin next week on a $1.8 million project to upgrade the Clarksville branch of the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, a transformation library and town leaders say will make the community resource even more valuable.
The project, which is expected to be finished by November, will bring an additional 1,723 square feet to the library's current 10,283. Included in the expansion will be an enlarged meeting room capable of seating 66, an increase to the children's library and three added study rooms.
The renovations also include more computers, an expansion to the teen area, new furniture, doors and hardware and ceiling tiles throughout. A mobile staff kiosk will be added and restrooms will be updated.
Community leaders, including Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity, Police Chief Mark Palmer, state Sen. Ron Grooms, Clarksville Parks staff, and Clark County Council President Barbara Hollis, attended a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
Mark Munzer, member of the library board of trustees and Jeffersonville Township Library Foundation board president, said the upgrades are important to ensure the library offers the best it can to the community, “fostering lifelong learning and informed citizenship in a welcoming environment,” he said during the ceremony.
“Public libraries today are more than a repository of books. Libraries are places where people gather. They are cultural centers. Things are changing. Things have changed. Those that argue that libraries are obsolete don't know what libraries in the 21st Century do.”
Korfi Darku, library board of trustees president, said the library is a tool for all in the community to get the resources they need to educate and better themselves.
"Historically, libraries weren't always open to the public,” Darku said. “They have come to serve as pillars to society once those doors are open and those institutions created.”
This can mean access to technology and other resources some families can't afford on their own. “So the library becomes a very important place where they can build on some of their aspirations,” he said.
It also serves as a hub for community building, champions of youth, education and arts, he said. “It is a place for people to come together, to interact," he said.
The Clarksville branch of the library dates back to 1955, when it was built at 304 W. Stansifer Ave. Later the branch moved to 523 Eastern Blvd. In 1964, the branch was closed and a bookmobile traveled the town until 1979.
“By that time, Clarksville residents really wanted library services,” Libby Pollard, director of the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, said during the ceremony.
A branch was opened in the Green Tree Mall in 1988, and served the town until the current library was built in 1993.
And just as the community has grown, so has the need for library resources. Currently, 34,000 cardholders between both the Jeffersonville and Clarksville branches. In 2016, nearly 269,000 people visited the two branches. Computers were turned on to access information 71,000 times, more than 12,000 people attended programs and 264,000 books were checked out, more than a third of which were children's books.
“It's impactful, what we're doing here,” Munzer said. “And what we're able to do moving forward.”
Koetter Construction is the building contractor on the project, with Evan Koetter serving as project superintendent. The design was created by Kovert Hawkins Architects, led by project manager and director of interior design Amanda Hunsucker and Larry Timperman.
Starting April 16, the library will be closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the project duration, to help accelerate construction.