Library unveils first look at renovations

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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There’s a feeling of progress at the Austin Public Library now that it’s once again opened its doors following a brief closure due to its renovation efforts.

It’s even got that new car smell mixed with dust.

“It’s dusty. Not sure about the new car smell,” Director Julie Clinefelter joked. “But there’s definitely a lot of dust and paint.”

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The library has been alternatively partially and completely closed for several weeks during the first part of the year related to work at the front of the building, which included bathrooms and the service desk.

“The service desk is up, the decorative pieces aren’t yet,” Clinefelter said. “But the service desk is up. The two new study rooms and small conference room are up. One has partial windows on the bottom, the other has partial windows on the top. Neither will have doors until July.”

People can currently check out those rooms as work progresses as well as the large addition being built alongside the western wall of the library.

While not completely finished, the two new study rooms at the Austin Public Library are nearing completion and the entire renovation project is on schedule to be completed by May. Eric Johnson/

Clinefelter said that all work is currently on schedule and a May completio remains the goal.

“We’re still on target,” she said. “Everything so far is on time, and we haven’t run into any major hitches. For us really, the six weeks we were either completely or partially closed down was really fast. It’s nice to be opened back up again.”

Even though it is slated to be completed by May, the grand opening of the just over $1.5 million project will likely come toward the end of June and will hopefully correspond with the building’s 27th anniversary.

Clinefelter said that so far the reception to the work that’s been completed has been welcomed by the public.

“I think they are really happy so far,” she said. “What we’ve heard, they liked the look of the desk — we’re all right here.”

At the same time, the work has helped to further highlight what the library has to offer.

“I think a lot of people in the past did one thing [at the library],” Clinefelter said. “Now they are walking around and seeing things for the first time. That’s been kind of nice.”

While work is now progressing, the project has actually been in the works for five years now. The revealing of the work completed so far adds a reality to a project that at one point saw a $1 million dollar increase in its early estimates.

Even though its fun to see the project come into fruition, there remains a lot of work to do aside from the construction.

“A lot of conversations have gone into how we’re going to work it,” Clinefelter said. “We’ve had a lot of turnover and change in positions since then. Kind of that constant reworking; who is going to sit there, customer service, what is that going to look like?”

Staff have already tweaked some things, but Clinefelter cautioned that  it will most likely be a few more weeks before everything is smoothed out.

But change can be a good thing, something Clinefelter has discovered during this process and the years previous.

“What I had hoped all along was that we would be able to take what we learned during COVID; take advantage of the opportunity to change things up and really make a bit of a leap forward in how we served the public,” Clinefelter said. 

Aside from the additional big work, the library will also look throughout the year to begin ordering smaller details for things like programming and furniture.

Nevertheless, Clinefelter is happy with this next step.

“Every once in a while, I have to stop and look around and say, ‘this is cool,’ Clinefelter said.