Aiken library renovation resumes soon - by DEDE BILES
The second and final phase in the multimillion-dollar effort to renovate and modernize the Aiken County Public Library is about to get underway.
Work on the interior should begin late this month or in early December, said Friends of the Aiken County Public Library President Bill Reynolds recently. He and John Oakland, who is serving as a construction consultant for the Friends, spoke to the Rotary Club of Aiken on Nov. 16 at Newberry Hall.
J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. of Aiken was the contractor for the project’s first phase and will be back in that role when the second phase starts.
Greenville-based McMillan, Pazdan Smith is the project’s architect.
The cost for all phases of the renovation combined will be “about” $3 million, Reynolds said.
A private-public sector partnership between the Friends and Aiken County government is funding the project.
The county provides $2 for every $1 contributed by the Friends.
The Friends had launched a capital campaign, “entitled ‘A Great Community Deserves a Great Library,’” Reynolds said. “But when we were about two months into it, COVID-19 came along. Our board felt like – with the stock market crashing and unemployment roaring through the roof – that the only proper thing to do would be to hit the pause button on the capital campaign, which we did.
“It’s still on pause,” he continued, “and we haven’t decided when the right time to restart it will be. We want to get past the holiday season and see what the situation in the community is in terms of supporting a continuation of the capital campaign.”
During the refurbishment of the library’s interior, the work will start on the second floor and is scheduled to continue until the end of March 2021.
Much of that floor will be converted into a large study area with computers, desks and chairs, said Oakland, who was an executive with the Bechtel Corporation, an engineering, construction and project management firm, prior to his retirement.
“The librarians’ desk will be moved over to a corner, and that will allow them to view the entire floor,” Oakland continued. “Before that, they were kind of facing the stairwell. There also will be additional conference rooms constructed on the second floor.”
When the renovation of the second floor is completed, “it will be the main activity area” in the library and the first floor will be closed for refurbishment, Oakland said.
“That area will be totally revamped,” he added, and the librarians’ desk there will move from a central location in front of the entrance to the side.
The library’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system also will be replaced and new lighting will be installed in the media and reference center.
In addition, the library will get new front doors and architectural wood casework will be placed throughout the facility.
The library is in the south wing of a brick building that was built prior to World War II. The north wing currently is vacant.
A new elevator will be built at the front of the building, which now has only one elevator in the back. Between the wings, a new entrance, which will provide access to the new elevator, also will be constructed.
Work in that area will begin around the same time that the renovation of the library’s interior starts.
The project is scheduled to be completed next year by mid-October.
A refurbishment of the north wing, which is “entirely a county project,” Oakland said, also is planned.
The elevator will serve both wings.
“Asbestos removal in the north wing already has been completed,” Oakland said. “The roof on the north wing has a large open area where rain has come in, and that will be repaired” along with damaged flooring below.
County Administrator Clay Killian told the Aiken Standard that the county hadn’t decided yet what the north wing would be used for.
We’ve narrowed it down to a couple of things,” he said.
The Aiken County Public Library is at 314 Chesterfield St. South in Aiken.
Dede Biles is the county government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard.