Belmont Hills Library renovations approved
Renovations in store for the Belmont Hills Library
Belmont Hills>> Over the past decade or more, Lower Merion Township has gone through an extensive library renovation program to upgrade and expand its six libraries, with the exception of one.
That’s about to change.
At a Lower Merion Board of Commissioners Finance Committee meeting Oct. 4, the board recommended approval of several contracts related to the approximately $2 million renovation of the Belmont Hills Library. It will be the last in the Lower Merion Library System to be renovated.
Among the improvements to the library will be a new addition with a meeting room, ADA compliant restrooms, an office for staff and a new entrance closer to the parking lot. There will also be an area for pavers that will be sold as a fundraiser for the library.
Because the work on this library had been anticipated for the past decade, upgrades to the infrastructure such as the HVAC system have been deferred and will now need work. In addition, there will be new shelving, carpeting and new paint.
Following a short presentations by township staff, members of the Board of Commissioners weighed in on some of the issues surrounding the library renovations including the need for the work and whether added security will be necessary.
“My intention is to vote in favor of the funding for this because the libraries are important from both the library standpoint and also being places that are community centers,” Merion Commissioner Brian Gordon said. But he did express concern over the addition of the rear entrance and whether that would require additional staff for security reasons.
David Belanger, head of libraries for Lower Merion Township, responded by saying with the security systems including new security cameras and other measures they are planning in the new facility they do not anticipate the need for additional staff unless the library’s usage increases substantially.
Belmont Hills Commissioner Paul McElhaney said he grew up using the Belmont Hills Library and acknowledged it needs some renovations. “It is dated inside,” McElhaney said. “The bathrooms do not meet ADA.”
McElhaney went on to say he has sat in on meetings with the library’s board and since they are in the open they’ve sometimes been shushed by patrons.
Bala Cynwyd Commissioner George Manos said libraries are more than warehousing for books. “I think it’s important to note what we are doing with these libraries than just improving the buildings” Manos said. “There are programs that are being developed and taken advantage of, some of which are funded by the state, some for children that are so important to some of the families that are moving into Lower Merion.”
Belanger used that as an opportunity to discuss some of the technological improvements with the Lower Merion libraries. “I guess the most exciting thing we have going on currently is we are expanding our technology programing in libraries,” Belanger said. Among the tech changes, he said, are the addition of 32 Chromebook laptop computers that were purchased with a grant amd another grant from the Best Buy Foundation that will fund coding classes targeted toward kids between the ages of 12 to 16.
Belanger said they are also doing a lot with preschool education and early literacy “making sure that kids are able to succeed when they enter school.”
“This construction at the Belmont Hills library will enable these programs” through the addition of meeting space for children and adults, as well as for community groups, he said, “… Basically making the library a more intriguing part of the community,” Belanger said.