Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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October 11, 2010

Celebration packs renovated downtown branch

It’s not new, but it sure looks like a whole new building.

Geoff Russell, who attended Sunday’s grand reopening of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library Main Branch downtown, summed up the yearlong renovation project in a word.

Wow.

“This was worth the wait,” he said as he surveyed the etched glass panels on the ground floor. “I didn’t know I was in the same library as before. This is magnificent.

“This is nothing like the old one. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but this is really breath-taking. It’s like something you would expect in a much larger city,” Russell said.

The library was packed Sunday with similar comments being made by partygoers.

Library volunteers stayed busy guiding guests on a tour of the completely renovated, three-level building, said Susan Luttrell, library board president.

Located in a building constructed in the 1960s, she said talks of needing a new Main Library began in the late 1990s. In 2002, talks increased, but the economy and other factors ruled out new construction.

As a result, the plan changed to renovating the current structure.

Using $4.2 million of taxpayer money, which Luttrell said was “saved over many years,” the library renovation has allowed for a better use of public space.

“It was cramped workspace for our workers, and it was cramped for our patrons,” said Luttrell, adding there are still plans to construct a garage area for the library’s Bookmobiles so volunteers can be protected from the elements when preparing for a run.

“We were able to do this and complete it with no debt,” she said. “We came in under budget with this project.”

The renovated library includes a new Victorian look for the Genealogy and Local History Department; a computer lab with 41 computers; more than 90,000 books in the adult collection; no fees for A-V materials; and a teen department Luttrell said was designed after consulting area teens.

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