The Neosho-Newton County Library board of trustees met last week at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting that included a construction update on the Neosho Library expansion.

The Neosho-Newton County Library board of trustees met last week at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting that inclded a construction update on the Neosho Library expansion.
That meeting resulted in the board making some revisions to the library’s operating schedule. The library closed to the public on Feb. 2 to begin moving some operations into the new area and to prepare for demolition of the existing space.
“We initially had planned to reopen a small section of the new addition and to provide very limited services to the public on Feb. 28,” said Jonathan Russell, board president. “Some people had the misunderstanding that the library would be completed and fully functional by then, but that was not the case. However, after discussing construction timelines and safety issues with Branco, our construction managers, we now plan to keep the library closed until we have completed construction. We will notify everyone when we plan to reopen once we are more certain of that date.”
            Weather conditions have delayed construction of the exterior gutters, sidewalks and parking lot, making entering and exiting the building very challenging. In addition, interior demolition involves removing and installing new ceilings and flooring, replacing the circulation desk, tearing down shelving and a host of other construction-related activities, which requires anyone in the area to wear a hardhat. Ultimately, Branco advised the board that the final construction phases will move much quicker and more safely if the facility stays closed to the public during that time.
            “We knew when we started the project that there would be some disruptions for our patrons, and we have attempted to keep those as minimal as possible,” Russell said. “While we regret the delay in reopening and apologize to our patrons for the inconvenience, we promise that the wait will be well worth it. We have a lot of exciting news surrounding the opening activities and new services that we will be sharing with you soon.”
            In the meantime, the library staff reminds everyone that the Seneca branch is still open for service, and patrons also can download e-books from the Missouri Library to Go online system. There also will be no late charges for materials checked out during this time.
The board has been meeting twice monthly with members of the Branco Enterprises construction management team since the design phase to review blueprints, track construction activities and oversee expenditures. The project includes 9,500-square-feet of newly constructed space added to the rear of the building located on Spring Street in downtown Neosho, and remodeling of the existing circulation area and offices to integrate the two spaces into one cohesive unit.
Staff continued to provide full library services in the existing space while the addition was under construction. Once it was nearly completed, the library closed to the public to begin moving some operations into the new area and to prepare for demolition of the existing space. This required the library staff to pack some 70,000 pieces of material and to move them either into the new section or offsite for storage, as well as disassemble all shelving, computer equipment and other materials.
“We can’t praise our library staff enough for the work they have done to facilitate the construction and move,” Russell said. “They have worked admirably under trying conditions, including noise, dust and numerous other disruptions. Every decision they have made has been with the thought ‘how will this affect our patrons and taxpayers?’ This project could not have taken place without their dedication and leadership.”
Once completed, the $1.8 million project will double the library’s space and provide room for more people, programs and materials; expanded, children’s and teen sections; a secure history and genealogy section; more computers and outlets for personal laptops, with high-speed Wi- Fi; quiet reading and research areas, including small study rooms; wider aisles for easier accessibility; an improved handicap accessible entry and customer service-checkout area; a community meeting room that will accommodate up to 150 people; an updated materials processing center and staff offices; a safe room for patrons during severe weather; improved restrooms; and more parking