4 Louisville public libraries using millions for renovations and reopenings
Residents across Jefferson County could have access to new-look libraries as soon as next year.
The Louisville Free Public Library system has announced or begun four projects since September aimed at revitalizing current libraries and bringing ones to neighborhoods without them. The changes combined are expected to cost at least $24 million through local, federal and private funding.
In June, the Metro Council passed this fiscal year’s budget, which set aside nearly $24.5 million for LFPL. It increased its funding by almost 14% from the previous budget.
The city also allocated more than $14.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding that month toward the library projects, part of a $79 million round of federal stimulus relief to help local governments recover from the economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a September interview with LPM News, Mayor Greg Fischer said most of the ARP relief was focused on capital projects like library improvements. He also commended the nonprofit Library Foundation for boosting project plans.
“They will raise millions of dollars in the community for each of these projects to really make them destinations. And when people go to them they're like, ‘This is as good as anything in the world when it comes to libraries and lifelong learning,’” Fischer said.
Those and other dollars are meant to bring new and improved libraries downtown and in southeast and west Louisville.
Fischer and other local leaders announced plans to renovate downtown’s Main Library in December. The $8 million project includes updating and reopening the third floor, which closed in 2018 due to city budget cuts from rising pension costs, and transforming an old 16,000-square-foot space to make it available for public use. There is currently no estimated completion date.
The project also aims to improve the exterior of the building, which was erected as one of many Carnegie libraries across the country. Paul Burns, LPFL’s communications director, said those changes would not only make the building more appealing but also increase awareness of its existence, especially from the north side facing the Broadway corridor.
“We want to tell people, ‘Hey, there's a giant library here, and this is your place. Come visit,’” he said.
Fern Creek Library
LFPL closed the old Fern Creek library, which was in the Cedar Springs Shopping Center, in 2019 due to pension-driven budget cuts, but now it’s getting a new home. The planned 18,000-square-foot library will be next to Fern Creek High School.
Burns said the investment in Fern Creek, at least $8.7 million, and other Louisville locations was important for shaping the city’s future.
“It adds to our neighborhoods, it adds to the quality of life in our city. And so, you know, for me, as someone who's been at the library for 23 years, it's super exciting to see this kind of goodwill and investment,” he said.
City and library leaders broke ground on the new building in December, though an estimated end date has yet to be determined.
The Parkland Library, another Carnegie library, closed in 1986 following budget cuts, though Burns said the building on 28th Street and Virginia Avenue has been used in the meantime.
“[The Parkland] community never gave up hope that their library would be returned to them. Fortunate for us, Metro still [owns] the building. It had most recently been used by LMPD, and so the building was in good shape as far as it was still functioning,” Burns said.
The renovation project is estimated to cost at least $2.7 million and will include a 3,000-square-foot extension to the rear of the original 6,000-square-foot building, said Burns. City leaders broke ground on the project in September, and it’s planned to be completed by the end of 2023.
The 6,000-square-foot Portland Library is also a Carnegie library, and the city looks to renovate and expand it by 4,500 square feet. Burns said both the Parkland and Portland sites will have new features.
“We're hoping to be able to bring some of the amenities we have at our regional libraries like maker [spaces], separate teen and children's areas, things that those smaller locations currently don't have room for,” he said.
Like the Parkland Library, the $5.5 million project had a groundbreaking in September and the city hopes to complete it by the end of 2023. Burns said the Portland location will close at some point for work on renovations.