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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

$2.5M fix-up, expansion of Ellis Reference and Information Center eyed for spring


MONROE - The Monroe County Library System is looking to make the Ellis Reference and Information Center a more inviting place for patrons of all ages.

A $2.5 million renovation and expansion expected to get under way by spring will include a first-ever teen area, a separate room for story time and other library programs, an enclosed area for genealogists and others who use microfilm, and a small cafe.

"It will make better space for patrons - more computers, a separate area just for children, a special reference area, a programming room, and a quiet study area so we're looking to make it a more inviting place for people to come," said Nancy Colpaert, library director.

The project has been on the drawing board for some time.

More than a year and a half ago, the library vacated the second floor of Ellis, moving its administrative offices to a renovated headquarters building named for the late Mary K. Daume, a former director of the library system.

"We vacated the space at Ellis that's sitting here not being used," Ms. Colpaert said. "The intent is to make that into public service space."

With assistance from the architectural firm Fanning Howey of Novi, Mich., and construction manager O'Neal Construction of Ann Arbor, library officials are finalizing plans and hope to go out for bids soon. Ms. Colpaert said construction is expected to begin this spring and take nearly a year.

In addition to renovating the first and second floors of Ellis, the library plans to add more than 4,000 sqaure feet off the back of the building at 3700 South Custer Rd.

"Part of that will be a programming room," she said. "The other part will have floor-to-ceiling windows that will be open to the river. That will be a reading room and quiet area."

Nancy Bellaire, the library's assistant director, said she's excited about having an enclosed space for programs.

"Whether we're having story time or an author visit, we move furniture out of the way and it's right in the library," she said. "It's great to be near the collection, but it really is disruptive."

Ms. Bellaire said the entire first floor will get a makeover as part of the project. She said the library will remain open while the addition is under construction and the second floor is being renovated, but it likely will close for an estimated six months while the first-floor renovation is being done.

Ms. Copaert said the project is to be paid for with funds set aside in the library's capital reserve fund and with a portion of a $2.5 million bond issued through the Monroe County Building Authority to help pay for both the renovation at the Daume building and at Ellis.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.

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