Library nears completion

A new library branch under construction for more than a year on the site of the old Fairwood Country Club on Old Hammond Highway could open its doors as early as March, said East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant Library Director Mary Stein.

A construction site punch list should be ready sometime this week and furniture will be delivered to the new branch after Christmas, Stein said. Technical furniture is scheduled to ship on Feb. 8 and will take two weeks for installation.

The cost for the 15,800-square-foot facility, near the intersection of Old Hammond Highway and Flannery Road, is $4.5 million, Stein said, noting the money is not tied to the sale of bonds or any debt. The money for the branch was left over from salary savings from previous budget years, she said.

Stein said the construction process for the Fairwood branch has been very smooth, with only five change orders issued.

“With a library you might have 20 or 30 change orders, so we are very proud of this project,” Stein said.

The Fairwood branch will feature many firsts for the parish library system, including the first library to feature mobile book shelves, the first library drive-thru to pick up and drop off books and DVDs, the first library quiet room, and the first collaborative study room, Stein said.

The two collaborative study rooms will offer patrons a place to gather as a group to study or work on projects, Stein said.

The new branch will also feature 40 computers for all ages, 10 laptop computers for free computer lessons and Wi-Fi.

The library project got its initial boost after Metro District 8 Councilman Mike Walker and his legislative aide, Zona Pickens, talked to the owners of the land that housed the former country club. Pickens asked the owners if they would donate the land for a library, which they did, Walker said.

“I’m very excited about it possibly opening in March. I can’t wait to go,” Walker said Friday.

“I’ve always said that we have 16 schools in District 8 and never had a library, so it’s much needed,” he said.

“It’s going to be great because folks in the neighborhood won’t have to cross over Airline Highway anymore to go to the Goodwood branch. They can go now in their own neighborhood and that’s how you build communities right,” Walker said.

David Todd Waguespack and Kelly C. Sills, who represent Kodiak Equipment LLC, donated the land to the city-parish in July 2008 for the library, Stein said.

The donated land, valued at $808,038, is 2.65 acres.

Incoming District 8 Metro Council member Buddy Amoroso, who will be sworn in Jan. 2, said the new library in his district will be a big asset brought on by a successful public and private partnership.

“It’s tremendous. It’s a beautiful library. It’s fantastic and I can’t wait to start holding public meetings there,” Amoroso said.

Stein said an 18-wheeler carrying 40,000 books is slated to arrive the week of Feb 11. Each one of those books has to be scanned, she said.

The library already has a library director.

Lauren Tomlin, who was transferred from the teen section of the Jones Creek branch, will lead 10 full-time employees and five to seven part-timers, Stein said.

The staff is being hired now.

Stein said many residents in the community have been calling to ask when the library will open.

“They have been calling early and often,” Stein said.

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