Work is slated to begin on the renovation of one of the most well-used and popular libraries in El Paso.
The staff has moved out of the Richard Burges Library at 9600 Dyer Street, on the north side of the city, in preparation for what will be a $1.4 million project.
“We are just packing things up and getting moved out,” says Jack Galindo, marketing and customer relations coordinator with the El Paso Public Library.
“And once we are completely out of the building, then we will turn it over to the contractors,” he adds.
The renovation, which will see the construction of a new study room and expansion of a specified teen area, is being paid for through El Paso’s 2012 Quality of Life Bonds.
It also represents the second largest city library project funded so far by those bonds.
The largest was the $2.1 million renovation of the Irving Schwartz Branch at 1865 Dean Martin Drive, which ultimately added 5,000 square feet to a facility built in 1991.
That project saw an updating of the building’s technology, along with the construction of a 25-station computer classroom, and new dedicated children and teen space.
Also included in the Irving Schwartz project was the creation of collaborative space, a building trend that is being seen in both new and existing libraries across the country, and a meeting room that essentially doubled the previous capacity size.
“The Irving Schwartz project was our biggest and took about a year altogether to complete,” reports Mark Pumphrey, interim director of the El Paso Public Library system.
“Because the Schwartz and Burges projects are the biggest bond projects, the plan was always to do them first,” says Pumphrey.
Both libraries are located on the growing northeast side of El Paso, and are among the busiest in a larger system that today encompasses a dozen individual libraries serving anywhere from 1.8 to 2 million visitors annually.
Smaller projects will see the circulation areas expanded at both the Judge S. Marquez Library at 610 N. Yarbrough Drive on the east side of the city; and the Sergio Troncoso Library at 9321 Alameda Avenue, in southeast El Paso.
The Troncoso Library will also include the addition of a new parking lot.
“Each one of our twelve branches over the course of the Quality of Life bond is going to see some kind of renovation,” continues Pumphrey.
The work at the Richard Burges Library, in a structure that was originally completed in 1966 as a 70,000 square foot Sears department store, will also include building out more space for a technology lab, quiet areas, meeting rooms, and a Friends of the Library bookstore.
“There will be a major overhaul inside, but the exterior of the building is not going to change,” says Galindo, who adds “We’ll be putting in a new dedicated children’s space with a new entry area where the children can walk in.”
The project will also include a horseshoe-shaped glass public art piece by noted El Paso artist Hal Marcus.
“It’s children looking at computers, children looking through periscopes and microscopes, kind of scientific,” says Marcus of the subject matter of a work he has already completed.
That work will not be publicly unveiled until the library renovation is completed.
“It also has a solar system in it, and children playing, children reading,” continues Marcus. “Also because of the locale, it has some of the mountains and wildlife—it’s really looking at the world from a child’s perspective.”
In fact, the new children’s space, says Galindo, is being designed so that it is “inviting for both the children and their families. It’s going to look like an outdoor setting, with even the constructed design of a tree inside the building.”
Pumphrey says the work on the Burges Library will take about a year.
“That’s according to what the engineers have told us,” he remarks. “But they have also said that it could be completed in as little as eight to ten months.”
With a rapidly expanding metro base, the El Paso library system, founded in 1894, is one of the oldest in the West, and additionally provides services to the residents of nearby Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Chaparral, New Mexico.
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