KENNEWICK -- The Mid-Columbia Libraries Kennewick branch hopes to unwrap its new computer technology center after the new year.
A $141,000 remodeling project that should be done a week after Christmas, will have 45 computers in a designated area on the south side of the main Union Street library next to five study rooms.
Kate Holloway, the libraries' communications coordinator, said the project, which was entirely paid for by the Shirley Stroh Estate, also includes a computer training lab, a new area for copying and printing, and a new home for the microfiche readers.
The 2,300-square-foot technology lab will consolidate all the general-use computers to one part of the library.
Jon Stuckel, the libraries' information technology director, said MP Construction of West Richland is the general contractor and Ares Construction of Richland is the project manager and architect.
The new layout has computers on tables, rather than in individual carrels, which will provide room for more people and the carrels currently on the library's main floor area will be removed. That will make room for more places for people bringing their own laptops in to access the wireless service, Stuckel said.
Wireless computing at the library has more than quadrupled in four years, Stuckel noted.
"We see a lot of smartphones and laptops, iPads, Android tablets and the Kindle and Nook computers," he said.
The remodeling requires moving stacks of magazines and the oversized books to other parts of the library to make room for about 15 more computers and a technology services desk.
Stuckel said when the project is done, the library's interior will look larger and more open because several interior walls are being removed or repositioned with half-high walls that include windows for looking into the technology lab.
The project also involves dressing up the current reference librarians' desk with a canopy that will conceal new directed lighting for the desk. The canopy will be decorated with oversized green fabric leaves, reminiscent of the library district's "grow your mind" theme, Stuckel said.
A major makeover of the library's technology center was first discussed in 2006, about seven years after the library was built.
As designed, the library's main floor of poured concrete with its high ceilings is not conducive to expanding technology services. But the area where the new center will be has lower ceilings, making it easier to route the cables and power needed to serve a large number of computers.
Stuckel said the new technology center will better serve library users, offer room for future expansion when needed and consolidate activities involving microfiche, copying, printing and computer-assisted instruction in one place.
That doesn't mean computer activities aren't allowed elsewhere in the library, however.
Existing computers designated for families and children will remain in the children's area.
And computer users still can use the westernmost corner of the library near the free-standing fireplace, Stuckel said.
Money from the Shirley Stroh Estate is designated for the Kennewick and Pasco library branches. The first gift from the estate came in December 2000 as $250,000 in cash and property. Stroh left similar gifts to the Richland Public Library and the Richland campus of Columbia Basin College.
Holloway said the library district has invested the money, most recently drawing about $125,000 to buy equipment and furnishings for the Pasco branch remodel in March 2009.