Library improvements on horizon

Kylie Schepers/The Herald
Plans are in place to make improvements to the Huntingburg Public Library.


HUNTINGBURG — The Huntingburg Public Library, which is almost 100 years old, is due for some improvements.

But the library board plans to keep the library’s classic charm.

“We don’t want to lose that historical look,” Board President Chris Neu said. “And that is more expensive, because you’ve got beautiful arched windows. You have woodwork. The goal is to not lose that.”

The board has been saving money for improvements for years. Now that it has saved $1.8 million, the board is looking to start on the improvements and upgrades. But they don’t know the extent of that work yet.

“It’s an old building,” Neu said. “There’s going to be problems. We have things to deal with, like the windows, the popcorn ceiling, the bathrooms, the basement.”

The first part of the library was built in 1922 and additions were added in 1979 and 1994.

“We’re going to be dealing with a structure that was built in the ‘20s. We don’t know what we will have to deal with when we start doing this,” Neu said. “We may get into all sorts of surprises. Who knows what kind of construction materials were used? That was 100 years ago.”

For instance, the yellowing fluorescent lighting would be replaced. “It literally looks like the ‘70s,” Neu said. “We want to put in more period- specific lighting.”

Work will also be done to the basement “The part of the basement that is usable is under the original part of the library built in the ‘20s,” Neu said. “There is a section that was built in 1979. But basically it’s like an unfinished basement. It’s storage. It’s a concrete floor, exposed concrete block walls. We really would like to utilize that better.”

That includes adding heating, cooling and ventilation, dealing with potential flooding issues, updating lines and remodeling.

“We want to make the space usable space for public,” Neu said. “It could be a lot of things. It could be study rooms, library space, something that patrons can use.”

Updating the bathrooms is also being discussed. “If you look at the bathroom, especially the basement bathroom, they look like the ‘60s,” Neu said. “We’re going to need to do work on those.”

The extent of improvements that will be made will be discussed by the library board. No firm plans are in place yet.

Right now, the board is getting the money in place.

The $1.8 million is money the library board has been saving for at least 15 years, Neu said.

But to use it, the board must have the approval of the Huntingburg Common Council, and that process includes a public hearing. The hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 508 E. Fourth St.

In Indiana, if a taxing unit is ran by an appointed board, which the library board is, that entity’s plan for using its funding must be approved by an elected board. In this particular case, it is the city council.

“In order to access this money we have to get that approval,” Neu said. “If we get access to it, we can make plans to then spend it. We will have to finalize what we want, hopefully over the summer.”

The board would have the rest of 2021 for the work, and encumber what money is left into its 2022 budget to continue the work.

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