Residents of High Springs now have a bigger library, thanks to a recent $1.5 million renovation and expansion.
The six months of renovations to the branch on U.S. Highway 27 took the square footage from 5,000 to 8,200, doubled the amount of parking spots, improved outside grounds for better water conservation and created a larger meeting room and two more study rooms, said Shaney Livingston, the library’s director.
“We’re focused on serving as a community space more so than just having books available,” she said.
Construction concluded Friday, and the library hosted a celebration of the completion on Saturday.
The renovations also brought the addition of a quiet reading room, an art sculpture, a space specifically for teenagers, and a “snuggle up center” with padded carpets for newborns and young children.
“This is an opportunity for persons to be able to have entertainment and be able to come as a family and really enjoy the library,” Livingston said at Saturday’s event.
Library district spokeswoman Nickie Kortus said such renovations are necessary to keep library facilities up to date.
“As trends change and how people use the library,” she said, “we accommodate and plan for that in our renovations and expansions.”
The majority of the expansion was funded by the Alachua County Library District’s capital budget. However, funding for the “snuggle up center”, teen space, the quiet reading room and art sculpture came from Alachua County Library District Foundation, a separate nonprofit that helps fund the libraries, and the Friends of the Library, Kortus said.
Livingston said she expects to see a spike in people checking out books in the upcoming months because of the bigger space in the library.
During 2015, Kortus said, the branch checked out 114,944 books, CDs, DVDs and other items.
Hannah O’Neil, 16, who has gone to High Springs’ library since she was 4, attended the celebration Saturday and said she wanted to be one of the first people to see the completed project.
O’Neil talked to other visitors about Battle of the Books, a summer reading program that has the library competing against others in a trivia-like contest based on reading comprehension of certain books. High Springs’ branch has won first place for the past two years, she said.
O’Neil said the new teen space will provide a sectioned-off area where she can work on the new science fiction novel she is writing. It also provides space to meet with other Battle of the Books readers.
“It’s beautiful and so much bigger,” she said about the renovated library. “It wasn’t cramped before, but there is way more room now.”
Before High Springs, the library district renovated the Newberry and Hawthorne branches, finishing Newberry in 2015 and Hawthorne before that, Kortus said. In addition, a new library was built in Cone Park off East University Avenue, and an extensive renovation was done to the headquarters library in downtown Gainesville.
Expansion on the Tower Road branch is already budgeted and expected to start in January 2017.