BANGOR, Maine — City officials got a glimpse of the dramatic changes happening inside the Bangor Public Library, including a brand-new children’s wing nearing completion, during a tour Monday evening.
Library Director Barbara McDade led Bangor City Council Chairman Sean Faircloth and Councilor Sarah Nichols through the historic building, which is undergoing a major facelift.
The library has been closed since Nov. 16 to allow crews to complete some of the loudest, dirtiest work uninterrupted. McDade said she hopes to open doors to the public on Jan. 11.
When the library reopens, it will still be very much a construction zone. McDade said the project is scheduled to wrap up in May.
The children’s wing, which is now located on the third floor, is one of the first parts of the project to near completion. Books are on the shelves, and McDade said the library is waiting on a few more pieces of furniture.
Previously, the children’s room was on the first floor, easily accessed by a front entrance. The move of the children’s and teen sections to the top floor will improve security by allowing library staff to better monitor who comes and goes, McDade said.
“We had people saying they didn’t feel safe bringing their kids to the library,” McDade said. “We really wanted a safe space where kids could relax and parents would want to come enjoy the space.
“If the rest of the building turns out like the children’s room, I think everyone will be very pleased,” she added.
Also during the shutdown, library staff have been busy installing radio frequency identification tags on each of the library’s more than 500,000 books. The tags will allow for self checkout and help library staff find misshelved books and identify missing books using an electronic wand scanner.
The library also is building a new, two-story glass atrium facing Harlow Street. McDade said she hopes to find a vendor to sell snacks, coffee and other drinks in the atrium, which will be open year-round.
Construction crews are building a new “grand staircase” in the octagonal area that used to be the entrance to the children’s wing. There’s still much work to do on the first and second floors in that area, where drywall and plastic reveal the amount of work that has been done.
“I will be so glad when we know where the books are and can serve the public and not have to worry about the noise, appearance, and the dust,” McDade said.
Follow Nick McCrea at @nmccrea213.