NEW ALBANY — At first glance it looks like the Floyd County Library is preparing to move or go out of business. The back of the main floor of the library is full of empty shelves and workers are busy moving books to open up more space.

But the library's main branch is not going anywhere. In fact, one of its greatest assets will soon be expanding.

The Indiana Room, which has been in the lower level of the library since it opened 50 years ago, is moving upstairs. And one reason for the move is to get documents and items that have been in storage due to lack of space, out for the public to see and use.

The work to move the library upstairs began seven months ago. Melissa Merida, director of the library, said the hope is to have the move completed by January or February of next year.

"We want to have all of the Indiana Room collection in one space and all accessible to the public," she said. "We have items that have never been seen by the public because we don't have the space to put them out. In some cases we don't know what we have."

A large storage room houses boxes and boxes of artifacts, books and documents, as does an off-site area. The goal is to get everything scanned, indexed and available to the public.

"It's our golden jewel," Merida said of the Indiana Room. "It's a wealth of information that has to be preserved or it will be lost forever."

It's also important to get the collection upstairs which will help to preserve it.

"It [basement] is not a great area to keep rare documents. The building's mechanics go around it and above it, like water lines. The collection needs to be in a more protected area," she said. "It's also hard to control the humidity, especially in the storage area."

There have been concerns from some about the windows upstairs, and what affect the sunlight will have on the valuable and old documents. Each window has a coating that was added around 10 years ago to protect the books, and the shelves will be turned in the opposite direction to help limit the sunlight.

"The great thing about this move is everything will be in one spot," Merida said.

There will also be a designated space for the microfilm machines that are frequently used by patrons to look for old newspaper articles and obituaries.

There has also been some concern that Indiana Room items are being sold or given to other libraries. The only time an item will be sold is if there is a duplicate, Merida said. And some books that have nothing to do with Floyd County or Indiana history, such as college yearbooks, have been given back to their respective institutions.

Melissa Wiseheart, who works in the Indiana Room, said yearbooks were recently given to Indiana State and IUPUI.

"We gave them to their home libraries," she said.

She said the library had eight copies of one book and they were taking up space, which is another reason why duplicates were sold.

"We have only gotten rid of multiple copies of books or materials that do not fit with Indiana history," Merida said.

The Indiana Room recently received original blueprints from the Walker, Applegate, Oakes and Ritz architectural firm. Those have not been seen by the public due to space limitations.

The library has also "downsized" its book collection recently which is a common practice. The average publication date of the collection is 1985.

While construction is underway in the rear of the main floor, headphones are being offered to visitors to help drown out the noise.

Once the Indiana Room is moved, the old space in the basement will be used for offices and a second meeting room.

"We desperately need both," Merida said. "We are excited about the move and to finally get the entire Indiana Room collection upstairs."

Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Contact him via email at chris.morris@newsandtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NAT_ChrisM.

I am an assistant editor, cover Floyd County news and enjoy writing feature stories on interesting people in Southern Indiana.