MERRILLVILLE – “A gem.” “Truly a fabric of this community. “A place that promotes literacy.” “Beyond books.”
Accolades flowed during Friday’s Sneak Peek Gala to introduce the renovated Lake County Public Library along U.S. 30. The 114,159-square-foot building includes 10,542 square feet of increased space at a cost of $10.5 million. By repurposing and recycling materials, the project saved more than $990,000.
The project was designed by Carras-Szany-Kuhn & Associates to be constructed around the original building. Once the outer shell was finished, the walls inside were demolished. This allowed patrons to continue using the library, said Carol Moore, of the Lake County Public Library Foundation, the organizer of Friday’s gala.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen and David Wilkinson, president of Strack & Van Til, served as honorary co-chairmen of the invitation-only gala attended by 180 individuals who enjoyed the hors d’oeuvres, carving stations, desserts and musical entertainment.
The event took guests from the main level to the lower and upper levels for refreshments and different types of musical entertainment by local bands, including String Fever playing hammer dulcimers, jazz played by The Billy Foster Trio and blues by Lady Sax.
The event also dedicated a number of new features in the library building that was an 18-month undertaking to reconstruct a new energy-efficient facility while repurposing many areas and resources, Moore said.
One of those dedications was for the Lawrence A. Acheff Gallery in the main level, which displays the library’s original South Shore Line Poster Collection.
“I was so excited when I found out the library owned these original posters, most from the 1920s,” Moore said.
“Young Readers," a bronze statue donated by the Merrillville Rotary Club, also was dedicated in the newly expanded children’s area. The artist depicted two young children sharing a book while sitting on a park bench.
“The Reader” by Hermann Gurfinkel has been moved to the upper level where it is lighted and “just glows,” Moore said. The large white statue of a woman reclining while reading had been in the original front of the library, but wasn’t often seen by drivers whizzing by on U.S. 30, she said.
Ana Marie Grandfield, library director, said the $10.5 million renovation project had two major purposes — to make the library energy-efficient and to expand and repurpose the space.
“We had to upgrade the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and replace the windows for a ‘green’ building,” she said. “We have also been able to create a Merrillville branch library and a separate administrative office.”