The Economy & Business
6:34 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Dayton Metro Library Moves Ahead With Major Revamp

Dayton Metro Library Executive Director Tim Kambitsch is excited about the new library facilities to be funded by a voter-approved bond.
Credit Lewis Wallace / WYSO

The Dayton Metro Library system begins construction this spring on the first part of a major reorganization. The library board meets Wednesday to finalize the contract for the first of those projects, the E.C. Doren branch in Old North Dayton, and by 2017, neighborhoods all over Dayton will see smaller, older branches close or get renovated—and some big new libraries open up.

The plan, described in detail on the library’s website, is funded by a $187 million bond issue passed by voters in November 2012.

The changes are part of a system-wide re-envisioning of the use of library space: Dayton Metro wants more room for computer labs and meeting spaces, as opposed to large physical collections.

Library director Tim Kambitsch says book-lovers needn’t worry, though.

“We see this not as an abandonment of the printed material,” he says, “but we do also recognize that there are new technologies and new ways in which people consume information.”  More and more, people come to the library to use computers, get instruction or help, or check out e-Books.

“We certainly don’t want to become obsolete,” Kambitsch says.

Segment one of the library revamping scheduled to break ground in 2014 includes a renovation of the main downtown library and a new operations center nearby; the E.C. Doren Branch; Miami Township;  and a new branch in Northwest Dayton. Contracts were awarded to the architects according to schedule in mid-2013.

The main library and operations center will take longer to complete; the library’s operations center will move to the Hauer Music building on Patterson, and during the renovation of the library facility on 3rd Street, the Hauer building’s first floor will serve as a temporary main branch.

The E.C. Doren Branch in Old North Dayton, expected to break ground within a couple weeks, is a renovation, and it’s one of the only local branches that will stay small (around 5,000 square feet). The building is also one of the oldest libraries in the system, construction around 80 years ago.

“We struggled finding a way in which to merge that with other branches,” said Kambitsch, “but it is so isolated...we felt we would abandon that community if we did not provide some kind of library services there.”

E.C. Doren will include increased energy efficiency and a new terrace (or “reading garden”) on the back side of the library. A nearby former firehouse on Maryland Ave. will house the library temporarily during construction.

The Miami Township Branch will also be expanded and renovated beginning in July and is expected to be completed by 2015; bidding for those contracts begins soon. During the renovation, the library will rent another Miami Township space for the library.

The Northwest Branch will be a new facility that replaces three neighborhood branches: Dayton View, Ft. McKinley and Northtown Shiloh. The branches will remain open during the construction, and then close down when the new facility opens in 2015. The new site is at the corner of Philadelphia and Hillcrest, where Fairview High School used to be located. Construction is expected to start at the end of the summer.

Other branch libraries slated for closure are Belmont, Madden Hills, Westwood and the East Branch.

Dayton View, which is slated to close, is the only other branch as old as E.C. Doren, and in 2012 at least 1,000 people signed a petition protesting the plan. Although the Dayton View building will be sold, Kambitsch says the library intends to be selective about the buyer to be sure the building’s integrity will be maintained.

“We are going to be very careful about who we sell that building to,” he said.

Another element of the new library system that signifies a shift in mission will be new “opportunity spaces,” open library rooms where non-profits can incubate service-providing projects for several months at a time. The library system will partner with those local groups to allow them access to the space, and access to library clientele that might be harder for a non-profit project to reach in a stand-alone space.