During the roughly three months when the Capital Area District Libraries (CADL) Downtown Lansing branch was closed for renovation some of the regular patrons felt hopeful yet uncertain about the project, but the results of the recently opened renovation have been exemplary.
While the Downtown Lansing branch was closed, patrons could visit any of the other nearby branches such as Foster or South Lansing. In fact, the Foster branch received additional workers and had extended hours to accommodate increased traffic.
Still, life-long patron and grandfather John Mertz who actually lives closer to the Foster branch prefers the Downtown Lansing branch for its selection.
“They warned me about downtown [closing], so I got as many books as I could,” Mertz said. “The main thing I miss is going in to get all the new books and books I could never afford.”
Mertz hoped for the best with the new project.
“I support them. If they think it’s a good thing to do, if it’s something that they need, I think it’s probably good,” Mertz said. “The only inconvenience I’ve suffered is them not moving books from Downtown to here (Foster).”
In late November of 2016 CADL announced it would begin a renovation project at the Downtown Lansing branch slated to include improvements on multiple levels. According to the official press release, there would be updates to the service desks, lobby and restrooms, new study rooms, service desks and carpet, an open floor plan and more. The project was geared to cost $670,000 and open on March 13, 2017.
On that very day, CADL reopened the Downtown Lansing branch, just as was planned. Not only that, but the project is also on track to have the final total right on budget, according to Financial Director Patrick Taylor.
“We expect final expenses to be in the neighborhood of $665,000,” Taylor said. “We have a good handle on them.”
According to Downtown Lansing Head Librarian Kathy Johnson, it was the work of an effective team that made the project such a success.
“We had great contractors to work with… they worked really hard to get it done on time,” Johnson said. “They’d check up on us about issues they’d come across. Everyone just worked really hard, we had a great team of people working on the project. It was a wonderful experience. These guys were just wonderful to work with, just terrific.”
To celebrate the successful completion of the renovation project, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, March 20.
According to Johnson, the project had been part of discussions for a number of years until the middle of 2016, when the bid for architecture went out. Many of the renovations were in response to observations about things like long charging cords strung from walls and comments and complaints from patrons about the building.
According to Johnson, they wanted to modernize and open up the feel of the library. Shelves were cut down, old tables were refinished and outfitted with power outlets, a wall was taken out and the colors were updated to refresh the atmosphere.
As far as public works projects go, this renovation was not as expensive or time-consuming as they can get, but according to retired Director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California Richard G. Little, the outcome depends on how the project is run.
“If the owner is conscientious and pays attention, you greatly increase the likelihood the project is done right,” Little said. “Some take it very seriously and some don’t, the ones that do tend to [take it seriously] get projects that are done on budget and on time.”
According to Little, big projects tend to go wrong more often than comparatively smaller projects like this library renovation.
“Small projects that are important to people and get focused on tend to do well,” Little said. “A lot depends on how committed the owner is to getting it done well and done right.”
While the Downtown Lansing branch has seen the biggest recent improvements, patrons like Mertz have been satisfied with the CADL organization in the past as well.
“It’s really well run, it’s been an admirably run system. I can bring my 5-year-old grandson and he can play and find books,” Mertz said. “It’s the best resource in the world.”