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Central Library moving to DeSoto Square?

BRADENTON — Visitors to the library some day might be able to do some shopping at the mall after checking out their books.

Moving the Central Library to the vacated Dillard’s department store at DeSoto Square mall was just one of the options Manatee County officials considered while planning for major renovations at the downtown building.

Cheri Coryea, director of the county neighborhood services department, which includes the library operations, said a team was researching different scenarios for what would be best when work begins on the replacement of the air-conditioning system in the library on Barcarrota Boulevard.

“Most involve providing services during the renovations,” Coryea said. “It depends on the economics.”

She said the choices are to close the facility during the work, which could be as long as six months; try to continue offering services in the building while the work is being done; or temporarily move the operation to another location.

The idea of moving to the mall was suggested when DeSoto Square officials approached Coryea, whose department also handles the county’s economic development incentive programs, about attracting new businesses into the space Dillard’s is vacating.

Howard Leyo, a project manager for the county property management department, said there were several things to consider before the county makes any decisions.

The planned library renovation involves taking two chiller units from the roof, installing a new, larger chiller unit on the ground, changing two air handlers, and removing all of the duct work, which has been in place since the building was constructed in the 1970s.

To do all this work, the lighting system will have to be removed, the ceilings torn down and all of the books and shelving moved. “This is a major job,” Leyo said.

To make the job more complicated, the Central Library not only provides services to those who visit, but it is also the distribution center for all of the other libraries in the system.

The engineering for the air-conditioning project, estimated to cost $1.2 million, has been completed and it is ready to go out to bid. But whether to temporarily close the library, continue operations in place or moving has not been decided. Whatever the research team decides will have to go before the county commission, Coryea said.

One rumor floating around was that the county was considering selling the Central Library property and using the proceeds to construct a new, larger, more centrally located facility elsewhere.

“At this moment,” Coryea said, “this is not being discussed.”

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