Manatee County's Central Library set to close Feb. 1 for renovation

BRADENTON -- The Central Library in Bradenton will close Feb. 1 for three months as part of an extensive renovation project, Manatee County officials said Friday.

The popular library with a glamorous view of the Manatee River is expected to reopen at the end of April with a new, energy-efficient heating and cooling system, better accessibility for the disabled and an upgraded alarm system, said Ava Ehde, the county's library services manager.

"We're really excited; it's a great opportunity," she said Friday of the makeover at the library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W.

The renovation is expected to cost about $350,000, said Cheri Coryea, the county's director of neighborhood services, who supervises the library system.

There will also be significant changes to the building's layout, designed to improve patrons' experience, said Nick Azzara, the county's information outreach manager.

Narrow aisles between the rows of shelving will become more accessible for the disabled, and compliant with federal law, he said.

The library's collections will be re-arranged, and all materials for young people grouped together, he said.

During the closure, the county's five branch libraries will be available for patrons to use.

With the closing, there will not be a full-service library open on two of the seven days a week: Currently, the Central Library is the only one open on Mondays, and it and all the branch libraries are ordinarily closed Sundays.

On Feb. 9, a temporary computer lab will open to the public at 305 15th St W., formerly the home of the Manatee County supervisor of elections, Azzara said.

The "pop up" center, slated to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, will provide Internet access for such activities as filling out job and social-services applications and forms, for example, but not for general Web browsing, officials said.

The Central Library's book drop also will be closed, so patrons must return materials to branch libraries instead, Azzara said.

"We encourage patrons affected by this temporary closure to visit one or more of the other five branch library locations," he added.

During the renovation, the library's online resources, such as its e-catalogue, should not be affected, said Ehde.

"We have a virtual presence that is very strong," she said.

The library closing occurs in conjunction with a $12 million "chiller plant" project taking place in downtown Bradenton.

Over the past few months, the county's "chiller plant" has been under construction at 323 Ninth St. W., and its tentacles, designed to bring chilled water to other buildings, have resulted in street closings across the city's downtown section.

The plant is designed to cool county buildings as part of an overall, long-term energy-savings plan. It is also expected to eventually generate revenue; the plant can also provide utilities to potential clients, such as the city of Bradenton, SunTrust Bank and other private businesses, officials have said. The library will be the first county building to link to the chiller plant, said Maggie Daniell, the county's senior fiscal services manager for the Property Management Department.

The 30 staff members at the Central Library supported 271,000 in-person users, while users of all six libraries numbered 932,000 last year, said Ehde.

Another 404,000 patrons used the system's virtual resources during the same period, she said.

Among its virtual offerings are such items as eBooks and eAudio, streaming video and music, full-text scholarly journal articles, Consumer Reports, language tools, job tools and virtual support via the Ask-a-Librarian service, Ehde said.

The 51,700-square-foot library was built in 1977 at a cost of $3 million, she said.

The annual budget for the entire library system is $6.3 million, she said.

During the closure, the Central Library staff will be reassigned to work at the branch libraries, or at the county administration building in downtown Bradenton, said Ehde.

Branches include: the Braden River Library, 4915 53rd Ave. E.; the Island Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; the Palmetto Library, 923 Sixth St. W., Palmetto; the Rocky Bluff Library, 6750 U.S. Highway 301 N., Ellenton; and the South Manatee Library, 6081 26th St. W., according to the county website, www.mymanatee.org.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.