Bradenton Central Library set for close Feb. 1 for renovations

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

The popular fixture overlooking 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 re-do at the library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W.

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

There will 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 collection will be re-arranged, and all materials for young people grouped together, he said.

During the closure, patrons may use any of the five branch libraries in the county system.

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

On Feb. 9, a temporary computer lab will open at 305 15th St W., formerly the home of the Manatee Coun

ty Supervisor of Elections, Azzara said.

The "pop up" center, slated to be open from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, will provide Internet access for patrons filling out job and social services applications and forms, but not for general web browsing, officials said.

The library's book drop will also be closed, so patrons will have to return their materials to branch libraries instead, he 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 re-do, 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 couple of months, the county's "chiller plant" has been under construction at 323 Ninth St. W., and its tentacles, designed to pipe chilled water to other buildings, have resulted in street closings over the past few weeks across the city's downtown section.

The plant is designed to cool county buildings as part of an overall, long-term energy-savings plan for Manatee County. It is also expected to eventually generate revenue, as it 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 among three county buildings to link to the chiller plant, said Margaret Daniell, the county's senior fiscal services manager for the Property Management Department.

The 30 staff members of the Central Library supported 271,000 visitors last year, while the total in-person visitors of the six libraries numbered 932,000, according to the most recent figures, said Ehde.

Another 404,000 used its virtual resources from October 2013-September 2014, 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 re-assigned to work at the branch libraries, or at the county administration building in downtown Bradenton, said Ehde.

Branch libraries 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. Hwy. 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.