$2.2 million renovation transforms Lutcher public library

Advocate photo by Bret H. McCormick -- Allen Stark, 8, of Gonzales, reads a book on Tuesday at the newly renovated St. James Parish Library in Lutcher.
Advocate photo by Bret H. McCormick -- Allen Stark, 8, of Gonzales, reads a book on Tuesday at the newly renovated St. James Parish Library in Lutcher.

Margaret Simon said hello to a newly renovated library on Thursday, and she said goodbye at the same time.

St. James Parish library and parish government officials held a dedication ceremony and tour of the renovated Lutcher branch of the library on Thursday, which also happened to be Simon’s final day as the library’s supervisor.

“It’s been a lot of work. We’ve moved books about 20 times, but hopefully they’re all in place now,” Simon said.

Renovation started on the library — which opened in 1970 — in August 2011 and was completed last month at a cost of more than $2.2 million.

Parish President Timmy Roussel said the library was given a total transformation, which included new shelves and floors, a new entrance, offices, renovated restrooms, an enlarged meeting room open to the public, the library’s first computer lab and an expanded children’s area, including a separate room for Story Time events.

Simon started at the library in 1980 and worked her way up the chain of command, taking over as supervisor in 2008. She beamed as she led residents on a tour of the upgrades at the library and said she had mixed emotions about walking away.

Keri Walker is the library’s new supervisor, and Simon said she believed the library is in capable hands.

Margaret Simon wasn’t the only Simon stepping away from the library. The library board’s president, Lillian Simon, who is not related to Margaret Simon and is the only remaining original member of the parish’s library board when it was formed in the 1960s, also announced she was stepping down.

“I feel it’s my baby,” said Lillian Simon, who encouraged the public to help the library continue its strong presence in the community.

That’s a sentiment that was echoed by several other officials at the dedication ceremony.

“We want to make sure the library continues to be an asset to this community in the future,” Walker said.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Roussel added. “We want to continue with the improvements and continue serving the people of St. James Parish.”

St. James Parish has two library branches — the original, and newly renovated, branch at 1879 W. Main St. in Lutcher; and the west bank branch, which opened in 2003 and is located at 2593 La. 20 in Vacherie.